Douglas Stuart’s ‘Shuggie Bain’ Wins 2020 Booker Prize

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Scottish New York writer Douglas Stuart on Thursday won the Booker Prize 2020 for his debut novel ‘Shuggie Bain’, a coming-of-age story set in Glasgow, beating Indian-born author Avni Doshi.

“I can’t believe it. Shuggie is a work of fiction but writing the book healed me a lot; extremely cathartic,” Stuart said.

Stuart (44) dedicated the book to his mother, who died of alcoholism at the age of 16. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in London, he moved to New York to start a career in fashion design.

He has worked for various brands including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Gap. He started writing in his spare time ten years ago.

Dubai-based Indian-born writer Avni Doshi, who was among the final six authors of her debut novel “Burnt Sugar”, lost the top prize. She was shortlisted for this year’s award alongside Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga for the third novel in her ‘This Mournable Body’ trilogy on a shortlist otherwise dominated by American writers – Diane Cook for ‘The New Wilderness ‘, Maaza Mengiste for’ The Shadow King ‘and Brandon Taylor for’ Real Life ‘.

The jury for the Booker Prize 2020 was chaired by Margaret Busby, editor-in-chief, literary critic and former publisher, and consists of author Lee Child; author and critic Sameer Rahim; writer and broadcaster Lemn Sissay; and classicist and translator Emily Wilson.

“We forged links during the Zoom meetings. It was a wonderful experience… please read all the books on the shortlist, ”said Busby, who led the panel through the selection of finalists from 162 entries.

“Shuggie Bain is intended to be a classic – a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a cohesive social world, its people and its values. The heartbreaking story tells the unconditional love between Agnès Bain – engaged in a descent into alcoholism due to the difficult circumstances that life has known to her – and her youngest son, ”she said in reference to the book winner.

“Shuggie Bain can make you cry and make you laugh – a daring, scary, life-changing novel,” she added.

The Booker Prize ceremony this year is very different due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. The innovative and globally accessible so-called ‘Wallless Winners Ceremony’ of 2020 was broadcast from the Roundhouse in London.

The six shortlisted authors joined in the ceremony via a special screen in the Roundhouse and the event included virtual and in-person special guests.

Former US President Barack Obama has spoken about what reading the Booker Prize novels has meant to him and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, shared her thoughts on the importance of reading during the pandemic, also via video conference.

“I have always turned to writing to try to make sense of our world,” said Obama, whose recent memoir “A Promised Land” has made waves around the world.

Laureates such as Kazuo Ishiguro spoke of the experience of winning both the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo reflected on what they have done since becoming the very first Booker Prize winners last year for “The Testaments” and “Girl, Woman, Other”, respectively.

The Booker Prize for Fiction was first awarded in 1969 and is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland. The rules of the award were changed at the end of 2013 to embrace the English language “in all its vigor, vitality, versatility and glory”, opening it up to writers outside the UK and the Commonwealth, provided they write novels in English published in UK.


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