Tomorrow the winner of this year’s Diverse Voices Award will be announced at Seven Stories in Newcastle, UK. Sadly, I won’t be able to be there (though for the best of all possible reasons, since I’ll be heading towards Singapore for AFCC) – however, I will be keeping alert for the announcement, as the shortlist, announced earlier this week, certainly promises an exciting winning entry.
The competition is open to all writers who have not previously had a work of fiction published. This year there are three manuscripts in the shortlist, and each writer offers plenty of food for thought in their reasons for writing their middle-grade novel and entering the Award:
One of a Kind by Jude (Najoud) Ensaff, set in war-torn Iraq…
The idea for One of a Kind was born out of truth. Like many people who write, she wrote about something she knew: her childhood and later experiences, her losses and joys, then and now. Jude says: “Coming from a mixed race background, my father being Turkman and Muslim and my mother having been Welsh and Christian, I offer a unique perspective on cultural diversity from both a racial and religious perspective. I lived in Kuwait for part of my childhood but in 1990 following the invasion of Kuwait, my family settled in the UK in Wales, and I have lived in the UK ever since.
Samosa Girl by Swapna Haddow, about a girl who develops super powers…
The idea for Samosa Girl arose from Swapna’s secret fantasy to be a superhero. She says: “Whilst I’m not a superhero myself and I’m yet to happen upon a magical samosa, or at least one that doesn’t give me a dodgy tummy, this novel is embellished with the humorous anecdotes of my own upbringing as a second generation Indian in Britain.” She’s glad to see that there are far more books for children that celebrate ethnicity in their characters nowadays but felt there was a need for a tale of fun and mayhem, that honoured the strength of childhood friendship, something every child could relate to no matter what their background.
You’re Not Proper by Tariq Mehmood, set in a town”seething with Islamophobia”…
Tariq Mehmood entered the award because his three children are from diverse religious, cultural and religious backgrounds. Kashmiri, Pakistani, Tamil and English. Like many children in England, they have multiple identities. Tariq says: “I have children who are not white, who read a lot, but they themselves are fictionally invisible and where they do come into characters which may be close to them, at best they are appendages to white characters or they might as well be white. In Diverse Voices, I saw the recognition of the importance of creating a new literary landscape that reflected the world around us, that is blooming with thousands of different flowers, in which children are its scents.” In You’re Not Proper, Tariq Mehmood aims to make the fictionally invisible,visible by creating characters whose existence is shaped not only by their ‘communities’ but also by the major issues of Islamophobia, war and identity.
You can read the synopses of their books, and more about the Award itself, in the Diverse Voices press release here. This is a very exciting shortlist and no doubt the judges have their work cut out. All will be revealed tomorrow!
(And an interesting coincidence – Swapna also has a picture-book manuscript shortlisted for the SingTel Asian Picture Book Award, which will be announced at AFCC next week…)