The Barbellion Prize 2021 Longlist

This is the second year that the Barbellion Prize will be awarded “to an author whose work has best represented the experience of chronic illness and/or disability.” It was a joy to read the entire shortlist for the inaugural prize this past February and support the well-deserved win of Riva Lehrer for Golem Girl. I’ll be following the 2021–22 race with interest again, not least because one of the three judges is a long-time blogger friend of mine, Eleanor Franzen.

This year’s longlist looks fascinating: it contains fiction, poetry and memoir, and includes two works in translation. I happen to have already read the three nonfiction selections, but hadn’t heard of the other nominees.


Click on any title below for more information from the publisher website.

 

Ultimatum Orangutan by Khairani Barokka (Nine Arches Press)

From the synopsis: “Barokka’s second poetry collection is an intricate exploration of colonialism and environmental injustice … Through these defiant, potent verses, the body—particularly the disabled body—is centred as an ecosystem in its own right.”

 

What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle (Époque Press)

From the synopsis: “Sharing stories of myths, legends and ancient bogs, a deaf child and her grandmother experiment with the lyrical beauty of sign language. A poignant tale of family bonding and the quiet acceptance of change.”

 

A Still Life: A Memoir by Josie George (Bloomsbury)
Excerpt from my TLS review: Chronic illness long ago reduced George’s territory to her home and garden. The magic of A Still Life is in how she finds joy and purpose despite extreme limitations. Opening on New Year’s Day and travelling from one winter to the next, the book is a window onto her quiet existence as well as the turning of the seasons. (One of my favourites of the year.)

 

I Live a Life Like Yours: A Memoir by Jan Grue (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Pushkin Press). Translated by B. L. Crook
Excerpt from my Shelf Awareness review: The University of Oslo professor was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at age three and relies on an electric wheelchair. In his powerful, matter-of-fact memoir, he alternates between his own story and others’, doctors’ reports and theorists’ quotations, mingling the academic and the intimate.

 

Ill Feelings by Alice Hattrick (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
Excerpt from my blog review: Hattrick and their mother share a ME/CFS diagnosis. The book searches desultorily for medical answers but ultimately rests in mystery. Into a family story, Hattrick weaves the lives and writings of chronically ill women such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alice James and Virginia Woolf.

 

The Coward by Jarred McGinnis (Canongate)

​From the synopsis: “After a car accident Jarred discovers he’ll never walk again. … Add in a shoplifting habit, an addiction to painkillers and the fact that total strangers now treat him like he’s an idiot, it’s a recipe for self-destruction. How can he stop himself careering out of control?”

 

Duck Feet by Ely Percy (Monstrous Regiment)
From the synopsis: “A coming-of-age novel, set in the mid-noughties in Renfrew and Paisley, Scotland. … This book is a celebration of youth in an ever-changing world. It uses humour to tackle hard-hitting subjects such as drugs, bullying, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy.”

 

Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro (Charco Press). Translated by Frances Riddle

From the synopsis: “After Rita is found dead in the bell tower of the church she used to attend, the official investigation into the incident is quickly closed. Her sickly mother is the only person still determined to find the culprit.”

 

I’m most keen to read Ultimatum Orangutan (that title!), but would gladly read any of the new-to-me titles. The shortlist will be announced in January 2022.

 

Do any of the nominees appeal to you?

14 responses

  1. Still Life and Duck Feet sound great – what an interesting longlist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! A lot more diverse than last year’s list, which surely reflects an uptick in entries from all over.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A Still Life and Ill Feelings both on my radar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brilliant! A Still Life will surely make my best-of list this year.

      Like

  3. I’ve been wanting to read Elena Knows for months so I’m excited to see it here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds reminiscent of Moshfegh!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A Still Life appeals to me. I think the aim of this prize is wonderful. Chronically ill and disabled literary voices need attention, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a really lovely book. And I agree, we need to hear from these writers.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A good variety here. Duck Feet most appeals to me. I have bought Golem Girl but the print is really small and I might have to wait until I’ve got new glasses sorted out to read it (which seems problematic, to be honest …!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, really? Do you have the paperback? I didn’t notice small print in my hardback.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do – I fear they’ve done that thing they do where they take the text files and just make everything smaller for the pb.

        Like

  6. Ha! I like that the Orangutan title alone captures your vote!

    Ill Feelings is a title that I commented on in an earlier post of yours, but I think part of the reason it stood out to me is also that it’s published by Fitzcarraldo as I’ve enjoyed a couple of their books previously (although often titles published via other publishers in North America).

    Like

  7. […] a similar set of literary prizes as last year, including the Young Writer of the Year Award, the Barbellion Prize, the Rathbones Folio Prize, the Wainwright Prize, and (to a lesser extent) the Dylan Thomas Prize, […]

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  8. […] The shortlist for the second annual Barbellion Prize was announced earlier this month. I had already read one of the books, and publishers have kindly sent me two of the others for review. Still in the running this year are two novels, a poetry collection and a memoir (you can read a bit more about the longlist here). […]

    Like

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