Women's Prize for Fiction

The Women's Prize for Fiction (previously with sponsor names Orange Prize for Fiction (1996–2006 and 2009–2012), Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (2007–08) and Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (2014–2017)) is one of the United Kingdom's most prestigious literary prizes.[1][2][3] It is awarded annually to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year.[4] A sister prize, the Women's Prize for Non-Fiction, was launched in 2023.

Women's Prize for Fiction
Awarded forBest full-length novel written in English by a woman of any nationality, published in the UK
Sponsored by
LocationUnited Kingdom
Presented byWomen's Prize for Fiction
First awarded1996
Websitewww.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata

History edit

The prize was established in 1996, to recognise the literary achievement of female writers.[5][6] The inspiration for the prize was the Booker Prize of 1991, when none of the six shortlisted books was by a woman, despite some 60% of novels published that year being by female authors. A group of women and men working in the industry – authors, publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians, journalists – therefore met to discuss the issue. Research showed that women's literary achievements were often not acknowledged by the major literary prizes.

The winner of the prize receives £30,000, along with a bronze sculpture called the Bessie created by artist Grizel Niven.[7] Typically, a longlist of nominees is announced around March each year, followed by a shortlist in June; within days the winner is announced. The winner is selected by a board of "five leading women" each year.[8]

The prize has "spawned" several sub-category competitions and awards: the Harper's Bazaar Broadband Short Story Competition, the Orange Award for New Writers, the Penguin/Orange Readers' Group Prize, and the Reading Book Group of the Year.[9][10]

In support of the 2004 award, the Orange Prize for Fiction published a list of 50 contemporary "essential reads". The books were chosen by a sample of 500 people attending the Guardian Hay Festival and represent the audience's "must have" books by living UK writers. The list is called the Orange Prize for Fiction's "50 Essential Reads by Contemporary Authors".[11]

The prize was originally sponsored by Orange, a telecommunications company. In May 2012, it was announced Orange would be ending its corporate sponsorship of the prize.[12] There was no corporate sponsor for 2013; sponsorship was by "private benefactors", led by Cherie Blair and writers Joanna Trollope and Elizabeth Buchan.[13]

Beginning in 2014, the prize was sponsored by the liquor brand Baileys Irish Cream, owned by the drinks conglomerate Diageo.[14] In January 2017, Diageo announced that it had "regretfully decided to make way for a new sponsor", and would step aside after the 2017 prize was announced that June.[15][16]

In June 2017, the prize announced that it would change its name to simply "Women's Prize for Fiction" starting in 2018, and would be supported by a family of sponsors.[17] As of 2023 the family of sponsors includes Baileys and Audible.[18]

In 2023 it was announced that a sister prize, the Women's Prize for Non-Fiction, would be awarded for the first time in 2024, with a £30,000 prize which for the first three years would be funded by the Charlotte Aitken Trust, who would also supply the winner's statuette, "The Charlotte".[19]

Winners and shortlisted writers edit

The winner of the 2023 Women's Prize for Fiction was Barbara Kingsolver for her ninth novel, Demon Copperhead.[20] Kingsolver became the first author to win the prize twice.

#ThisBook edit

In May 2014, Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction launched the #ThisBook campaign to find out which books, written by women, have had the biggest impact on readers.[21] Nineteen "inspirational women" were chosen to launch the campaign and then thousands of people from the "general public" submitted their ideas via Twitter.[22] The 20 winners were announced on 29 July 2014.[22] The organisers noted that nearly half (eight) of the winning books were published before 1960.[22]

Reclaim Her Name edit

To mark the 25th anniversary of the prize, sponsor Baileys worked with the prize organisers to republish 25 books written by female authors that were originally published under male pseudonyms, such as Middlemarch by Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot).[23] The books show the author's real name on the book jacket, in a series titled Reclaim Her Name.

Criticism edit

The fact that the prize excludes male writers has provoked comment.[24] After the prize was founded, Auberon Waugh nicknamed it the "Lemon Prize", while Germaine Greer said there would soon be a prize for "writers with red hair".[25] A. S. Byatt, who won the 1990 Man Booker Prize, said it was a "sexist prize", claiming that "such a prize was never needed". She refused to have her work considered for this prize.[26] In 2007, former editor of The Times Simon Jenkins called the prize "sexist".[27] In 2008, writer Tim Lott said that "the Orange Prize is sexist and discriminatory, and it should be shunned".[28][29]

On the other hand, in 2011 London journalist Jean Hannah Edelstein wrote about her own "wrong reasons" for supporting the prize:

Unfortunately, the evidence shows that the experiences of male and female writers after they set their pens down are often distinctively different. That's why I've changed my mind about the Orange prize. I still agree with Byatt that the idea of female-specific subject matter is spurious, but I don't think that's what the prize rewards.[30]

In 2012 Cynthia Ozick, writing in The New York Times, said the Prize "was not born into an innocent republic of letters" when it comes to a history of women writers being discriminated against. She concluded: "For readers and writers, in sum, the more prizes the better, however they are structured, and philosophy be damned."[31]

In 1999 Lola Young, chair of the judges' panel, claimed that British female literature fell into two categories, either "insular and parochial" or "domestic in a piddling kind of way".[32] Linda Grant suffered accusations of plagiarism following her award in 2000.[33] In 2001 a panel of male critics strongly criticised the Orange shortlist and produced its own.[34] In 2007, broadcaster Muriel Gray, chair of the panel, said that judges had to wade through "a lot of dross" to get to the shortlist, but praised that year's winner, Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, saying: "This is a moving and important book by an incredibly exciting author."[35]

In 2019, Akwaeke Emezi's debut novel, Freshwater, was nominated – the first time a non-binary transgender author has been nominated for the prize. Women's prize judge Professor Kate Williams said that the panel did not know Emezi was non-binary when the book was chosen, but she said Emezi was happy to be nominated. Non-binary commentator Vic Parsons wrote that the nomination raised uncomfortable questions, asking: "would a non-binary author who was assigned male at birth have been longlisted? I highly doubt it."[36] After the nomination, it was announced that the Women's Prize Trust was working on new guidelines for transgender, non-binary, and genderfluid authors. The Women's Prize later asked for Emezi's "sex as defined by law" when submitting The Death of Vivek Oji for inclusion. Emezi chose to withdraw, and said that they would not submit their future novels for consideration, calling the requirement transphobic.[37] Joanna Prior, Chair of Trustees for the Women's Prize for Fiction, has stated that in the prize's terms and conditions, "the word 'woman' equates to a cis woman, a transgender woman, or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex".[38]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Pryor, Fiona (28 December 2007). "Life after Orange Prize success". BBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  2. ^ Reynolds, Nigel (12 April 2008). "Small Island voted best Orange prize winner of past decade". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  3. ^ Forna, Aminatta (11 June 2005). "Stranger than fiction". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  4. ^ "Rules for entry". Orange prize for Fiction. Archived from the original on 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  5. ^ "Orange Prize FAQs". Orange prize for Fiction. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  6. ^ Merritt, Stephanie (28 October 2007). "The model of a modern writer". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  7. ^ "About the Prize". Orange prize for Fiction. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  8. ^ "How the Prize is judged". Orange prize for Fiction. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
  9. ^ O'Donnell, Patrick (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction, see "Awards and Prizes" by Richard Todd, pp. 19–22.
  10. ^ Maunder, Andrew (ed.), The Facts On File Companion to the British Short Story, see "Awards and Prizes" by Vana Avegerinou, pp. 22–24.
  11. ^ "Harry's 'must-read' snub", London Evening Standard, 7 June 2004.
  12. ^ Page, Benedicte (22 May 2012). "Orange to cease sponsorship of Fiction Prize". The Bookseller. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  13. ^ McCrum, Robert (13 October 2012). "How prize that used to be Orange was saved – and rebranded". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  14. ^ Flood, Alison (3 June 2013). "Baileys all round at Women's Prize for fiction". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  15. ^ Kean, Danuta (30 January 2017). "Baileys drops women's prize for fiction sponsorship". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Women's Prize for Fiction: Baileys withdraws sponsorship". BBC News. 30 January 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Women's Prize for Fiction Announces New Sponsorship Model for 2018". womensprizeforfiction.co.uk. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  18. ^ "Sponsors". Women's Prize for Fiction. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  19. ^ Shaffi, Sarah (8 February 2023). "Women's prize to launch annual award for women's non-fiction writing". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  20. ^ Shaffi, Sarah (2022-06-14). "Barbara Kingsolver wins the Women's prize for fiction for second time". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-06-14.
  21. ^ Bausells, Marta (29 July 2014). "Which books by women have had the biggest impact on you?". The Guardian]. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  22. ^ a b c "To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee takes top spot in #ThisBook campaign". womensprizeforfiction.co.uk. 29 July 2014. Archived from the original on 30 July 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  23. ^ "Middlemarch reissued with George Eliot's real name". BBC News. 12 August 2020. Archived from the original on 2020-08-12. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  24. ^ Pressley, James (21 April 2009). "Robinson, Feldman Make Final Round in Orange Prize for Fiction". Bloomberg. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  25. ^ Bedell, Geradline (6 March 2005). "Textual politics". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  26. ^ Alberge, Dalya (18 March 2008). "A. S. Byatt denounces 'sexist' Orange prize". The Times. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  27. ^ Reynolds, Nigel (18 April 2007). "Booker prize author joins Orange shortlist". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  28. ^ Guest, Katy (6 June 2008). "The Big Question: Has the time come to close the book on women-only literary prizes?". The Independent. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  29. ^ Oakes, Keily (3 June 2003). "The fiction of women's writing". BBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  30. ^ Edelstein, Jean Hannah (16 March 2011). "I'm an Orange prize convert – for all the wrong reasons". Books Blog. (theguardian.com). Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  31. ^ "Prize or Prejudice". The New York Times. 6 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  32. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (10 May 1999). "'Piddling' British fiction loses out to Americans". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  33. ^ Kennedy, Maev (8 June 2000). "Orange prize winner rejects claims of plagiarism". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  34. ^ Gibbons, Flachra (19 May 2001). "Sexes clash on Orange prize". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  35. ^ Majendie, Paul (6 June 2007). "Nigerian author wins top women's fiction prize". Reuters. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  36. ^ "Opinion: Be careful before celebrating the recognition of Akwaeke Emezi". The Independent. 2019-03-09. Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  37. ^ "Akwaeke Emezi shuns Women's prize over request for details of sex as defined 'by law'". the Guardian. 2020-10-05. Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  38. ^ "Women's Prize on Twitter: 'A statement regarding eligibility for the Women's Prize for Fiction.… '". 2021-12-20. Archived from the original on 20 December 2021. Retrieved 2022-04-08.

External links edit