Canadian-Ghanaian Esi Edugyan has been shortlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize for her third novel Washington Black. It is the 40-year-old’s second consecutive shortlisting for the prize. Her first was in 2011 for her bestselling second novel Half-Blood Blues, which also made the Women’s Prize shortlist in 2012, making her the third African to be shortlisted for the Women’s Prize.
“Edugyan’s achievement, in unfolding Wash’s story, is one full of contraries,” said Leo Robson, one of this year’s judges. “It is a novel of ideas but also of the senses, a yarn and a lament, a chase story that doubles as an intellectual quest, a history lesson in the form of a fairy tale. Moments of horrifying cruelty and violence sit alongside episodes of great tenderness and deep connection. A majestic grandeur is achieved with the lightest touch.”
Hitting bookstores this September, Washington Black is currently the bookmakers’ joint second favourite to win. Here is a description from its publishers Penguin Random House:
Born and raised in Canada to Ghanaian expat parents, Edugyan has creative writing degrees from the University of Victoria and Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, published in 2004, was shortlisted for the 2005 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. Her second novel, Half-Blood Blues, published in 2011, won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize, the Women’s Prize, the Walter Scott Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Governor General’s Award for English language fiction. In 2014, Edugyan published her first work of non-fiction, Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home. In 2016, she was writer-in-residence at Athabasca University, Alberta.
The five other shortlisted writers are: Robin Robertson, for The Long Take; Anna Burns, for Milkman; Rachel Kushner, for The Mars Room; Richard Powers, for The Overstory; and Daisy Johnson, for Everything Under, which makes her, at 27, the youngest author ever to make the shortlist.
The judging panel comprises: crime writer Val McDermid, cultural critic Leo Robson, feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose, artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton, and Ghanaian-American philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, who is the chair.
The 2018 winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 16, in London’s Guildhall.
Congratulations to Esi Edugyan.
Following our report of the longlist in July, Nigerian writer Nzube Ifechukwu wrote, with instances, about the erasure of the African nationalities of writers in the press releases of the Man Booker Prizes. Although Esi Edugyan’s parents are Ghanaian, the press release lists her as just “Canadian,” highlighting the question of identity in global politics that African writers with Western nationalities are often mired in.