Out of the ten books selected for the coveted JCB Prize for Literature longlist for 2020, announced on September 1st, six are authored by women!
Female Authors Have Dominated The List With Their “Imaginative And Powerful” Storytelling
The books on the list by women include Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara, In Search for Heer by Manjul Bajaj, Undertow by Jahnavi Barua, These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light by Dharini Bhaskar, A Burning by Megha Majumdar, and Prelude to a Riot by Annie Zaidi.
These are also, unbelievably, Anappara, Bhaskar, Majumdar, and Zaidi’s, debut novels! Additionally, one of the two translators on the list is a woman.
Women are clearly demanding the representation and recognition they deserve in all spheres of the literary world, refusing to let language, gender, or lack of past work, be barriers to success.
The JCB Prize for Literature is an Indian literary award that awards Rs 25 lakh prize to a distinguished work of fiction by an Indian writer annually. It is currently the highest monetary award for Indian writing.
Mita Kapur, the Literary Director of JCB Prize for Literature, along with the jury, announced the books that had made the cut to the longlist in a video shared on their social media platforms.
“The longlisted books this year bring out the distinctive voice of each character and tell tales that are imaginative & powerful, providing us with fresh insights into the contemporary world even if some of them are set in historical times,” the jury said.
The winner of the JCB Prize for Literature will be announced on November 7th.
The Books Written By Women That Have Been Nominated
If you’re itching to get your hands on these books after reading about them, we’ve provided links to where you can do just that at the end of the article!
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Deepa Anappara
This debut novel, follows nine-year old Jai, who lives in the slums and is obsessed with watching reality cop shows. One day, when a classmate goes missing, he believes a djinn has kidnapped his friend and decides to investigate in a style much like the cop shows he watches. The novel is part adventure, and part critical observation of modern Indian society and the divide between the rich and the poor.
In Search of Heer, Manjul Bajaj
The book reimagines the legendary romantic epic of Heer and Ranjha into an unconventionally feminist tale. It retains the tropes of epic romance, musical ballads, and villains, but exposes and subverts their patriarchal undertones.
Undertow, Jahnavi Barua
Rukmini, a medical student from Guwahati is exiled from her community for marrying a foreigner. The novel explores what it means to be an “ideal Indian woman”, and identity politics through Rukmini, her mother, and her daughter.
These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light, Dharini Bhaskar
This debut novel is centred around three generations of women – Deeya, the protagonist, Amamma, her grandmother, and Mamma, her mother. Inspired by Richard Silken’s Scheherazade, the power in the art of storytelling is highlighted as the women weave stories of their own love, loneliness and heartbreak.
A Burning, Megha Majumdar
When a train is bombed by terrorists, a Muslim woman, Jivan, impulsively posts her opinion on the incident on social media. She realises that this was risky, but doesn’t expect to be arrested by the police and accused of orchestrating the train attack. As it explores the tense relationship between politics and social media, this debut novel brings to light the lives of those living on the margins of society
Prelude to a Riot, Annie Zaidi
In a town where upper-class Hindus have the right to possess and carry guns without applying for permits, the novel explores weaponization of identity and attacks entitlement based on wealth, caste, religion, and gender.
These women have clearly put out novels that the world needs now more than ever. They are radical, and explore gendered struggles that are – as in reality – not isolated from social, political, economic, and individual struggles. Just as quietly beautiful and deeply imaginative their writing is, their creative voices are unapologetically loud. They are dominating the longlist for an Indian literary award today – tomorrow, it’ll be the world!
Links to where you can get your hands on the books
- Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
- In Search of Heer
- These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light
- A Burning
- Prelude to a Riot
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