V.V. Ganeshananthan's 'Brotherless Night' wins Carol Shields Prize The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction is a relatively new literary award given to women and nonbinary authors. This year's winner is V.V. Ganeshananthan for her book Brotherless Night.

'Brotherless Night,' an ambitious novel about Sri Lankan civil war, wins $150K prize

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An award that celebrates creativity and excellence in fiction by women and non-binary writers was just announced last night. NPR's Andrew Limbong tells us more about this year's winner of the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: "Brotherless Night," by V.V. Ganeshananthan , is about a young girl who has to deal with her family enduring loss after loss during the Sri Lankan Civil War. Here she is talking about the book to WBURs Here & Now in an interview last year.


VV GANESHANANTHAN: I was very interested in writing about the kind of gray space between militarized societies and questions of choice and coercion, right? I mean, how can you even tell what it is that you're choosing to do if someone with a gun is asking you to do something?

LIMBONG: The civil war itself lasted for nearly 30 years, ending in 2009. Tens of thousands were killed, more displaced. The story of the war is huge. But the novel works because Ganeshananthan keeps her focus on the one family, says Jen Sookfong Lee, the jury chair for the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction.

JEN SOOKFONG LEE: It's that enmeshment of the bigger sort of historical context with a really intimate, beautiful, emotional family story that we thought was really masterful.

LIMBONG: "Brotherless Night" is Ganeshananthan's second novel. She's also got a background in journalism. In that Here & Now interview, she talked about the importance of writing a fiction novel about the Sri Lankan Civil War with accuracy.


GANESHANANTHAN: I felt that so much of what I knew to be accurate had been intentionally erased. And so it was part of the project of the book to set those things down in a way that would make space for the people I was speaking to about this period of time to talk to me, and also that would tell the story in a way that was intelligible and recognizable to the people who had lived through it and maybe to their children who didn't live through it and might want some sense of what that had been like.

LIMBONG: Named after the Canadian short story writer and novelist, the Carol Shields Prize is a newcomer to the scene of literary awards. The first award was given last year. But it stands out from the rest really because of its size. A National Book Award gets you $10,000, A Pulitzer gets you 15. Obviously, that's nothing to scoff at. But the 150,000 awarded by the Carol Shields Prize Foundation, that could be quit your job money.

LEE: If you could take two years off to write a book, that's what this prize can give you. And you won't have to do anything else (laughter). You won't have to, like, have a day job. And, like, if you live frgually, it could even be longer than that. And that, I think, is the greatest gift a writer could ever have.

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News.


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