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A writer for Guardian and a critic for Observer have been nominated for the first-ever Women's Prize for Nonfiction.
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A writer for Guardian and a critic for Observer have been nominated for the first-ever Women’s Prize for Nonfiction.

The books nominated for the first Women’s Prize for Nonfiction cover a diverse range of topics, including capitalism, artificial intelligence, Renaissance history, and motherhood.

Sixteen female individuals, such as Guardian US columnist Naomi Klein, Observer art critic Laura Cumming, and historian Tiya Miles, are currently in contention for the £30,000 award. The prize was established last year to address the lack of recognition for women in nonfiction awards.

According to Suzannah Lipscomb, the chair of judges and a historian, the titles on the “groundbreaking” longlist focus on addressing and correcting injustices. This may involve revealing the truth, exposing hypocrisy, or uncovering hidden stories. The authors of these titles are dedicated to seeking and presenting the truth.

Klein was nominated for the Doppelganger award, where she discusses her experiences of being confused with the feminist author turned conspiracy theorist, Naomi Wolf. Judge and biographer Anne Sebba praised Doppelganger as a “brilliant” book, as Klein takes a seemingly straightforward concept of having a doppelganger and transforms it into a darkly comedic exploration of a frightening mirror world.

Miles made the longlist for All That She Carried, a story of slavery centred on a sack that an enslaved woman passes on to her daughter. The book “finds a way to give voice to the wordless by using a mundane, domestic object – a cloth sack and its contents – to thread an extraordinary tale through the generations”, wrote Colin Grant in his Guardian review.

Six finalists will be chosen from the original 16 titles and their names will be revealed on 27 March. The ultimate winner will be announced on 13 June, alongside the recipient of the fiction prize. In addition to a monetary award, the victorious writer will also be presented with The Charlotte, a sculpture crafted by artist Ann Christopher.

Sebba shared his appreciation for Cummings’ selection for Thunderclap, which delves into the untimely passing of both Dutch artist Carel Fabritius and Cumming’s own father. According to Sebba, the book does an excellent job of blending a delicate and heartfelt love for her father with a profound knowledge of Dutch art.

Lipscomb observed that a majority, but not all, of the books on the longlist contain a “personal voice” that blends scholarly research with individual thoughts. This highlights a trend of authors embracing their subjectivity and owning it, which may be influenced by the current cultural climate. This is a noteworthy phenomenon that may not have been present had the prize been established a decade ago.

Some other titles that have been selected for their memoir-like elements are Safiya Sinclair’s “How to Say Babylon,” which delves into her experiences growing up as a Rastafarian, and Marianne Brooker’s “Intervals,” which explores her mother’s sickness and subsequent passing.

The nonfiction award was introduced following a study conducted at the request of the Women’s Prize, which revealed that only 35% of books that received a nonfiction award in the last decade were authored by women. This was across seven nonfiction prizes in the UK.

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According to Lipscomb, the longlist consisted of exceptional books covering a wide range of topics such as economics, technology, science, history, and investigative journalism. However, there were not as many submissions in certain categories, including philosophy, literary criticism, geopolitics, mathematics, and sports. Lipscomb anticipates that the prize will motivate publishers to support female authors writing in these subject areas.

The following titles are also included in the list: The Dictionary People by Sarah Ogilvie, The Britannias by Alice Albinia, Vulture Capitalism by Grace Blakeley, Eve by Cat Bohannon, Shadows at Noon by Joya Chatterji, Some People Need Killing by Patricia Evangelista, Wifedom by Anna Funder, Matrescence by Lucy Jones, Flat Place by Noreen Masud, Code Dependent by Madhumita Murgia, and Young Queens by Leah Redmond Chang.

For this year’s award, eligible books must have been published in the UK from April 1st, 2023 to March 31st, 2024. The judging panel includes Lipscomb and Sebba, as well as fair fashion advocate Venetia La Manna, author Nicola Rollock, and the previous winner of the 2018 Women’s prize for fiction, Kamila Shamsie.

Source: theguardian.com