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NoViolet Bulawayo shortlisted for Guardian first book award 2013

16 Nov 2013 at 06:04hrs | Views
The Booker-shortlisted novelist NoViolet Bulawayo is among five writers shortlisted for this year's Guardian first book award.

Bulawayo's We Need New Names joins three other novels and one non-fiction book on a list that showcases "vibrant, original new talents", according to the chair of the judging panel, Lisa Allardice, the editor of Guardian Review. "The fiction ranges from the last hanging in 19th-century Iceland, to a thriller for the Facebook age and recession-hit Ireland, via NoViolet Bulawayo's portrayal of post-independence Zimbabwe," she said. The "pleasingly global line-up" includes authors from Australia, Egypt and Ireland.

We Need New Names grew out of Bulawayo's short story "Hitting Budapest", about a Zimbabwean girl coming of age in the US. The story won the 2011 Caine prize for African writing. The novel was inspired, said Bulawayo, "by what children can stand for, by their innocence, their resilience, humanity and humour", and was shortlisted for this year's Man Booker prize.

Among the three other debut novels competing for the £10,000 prize, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan, who "wanted to write about the way we relate to one another and the way we perceive ourselves", made this year's Booker longlist. Hannah Kent's decision to leave her home in Adelaide aged 17 and spend an "intensely lonely" 12 months in Sauoarkrokur, a fishing village in Iceland, led her to discover the tragic story of Agnes which forms the heart of her novel Burial Rights. Lottie Moggach has created "a suspense novel that is classy, frightening and upsetting", in Kiss Me First, the story of a woman persuades another to impersonate her online so that she can leave her life behind without distressing her friends and family.

For Allardice the strength of this year's fiction was "reflected in the fact that only one non-fiction title made it onto the longlist – Shereen El Feki's fascinating exposé of sex in the Arab world".

El Feki, who is the daughter of an Egyptian father and a Welsh mother, blends interviews, statistics, reportage and memoir to explore a world where sex outside marriage is prohibited, chastity is considered more important for women than men and many brides believe husbands have a right to beat their wives if they refuse to have sex.

Allardice said she wouldn't hesitate to recommend any one of these books. "It is a great line-up and I hope the list will introduce many more readers to these vibrant, original new talents," she said.

Allardice is joined on this year's judging panel by the psychotherapist and writer Susie Orbach, the novelists Rachel Cusk and Philip Hensher, and Paul Mason, the culture and digital editor of Channel 4 News – as well as readers in Waterstones bookshops nationwide, who have helped to select the shortlist.

The Guardian first book award pits fiction and non-fiction in a competition that seeks excellence, promise and originality in new writing. The winner will be announced on 28 November 2013.

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