Ganeshananthan Wins Major Literary Prizes

The professor's second novel Brotherless Night is honored internationally
Head and shoulders of person with brown hair to shoulders and  brown skin, wearing grey top, smiling, and holding two grey fluffy dogs; windows behind

Associate Professor of English V. V. Ganeshananthan says it took nearly two decades to write her second novel, Brotherless Night (Random House), the story of a young Tamil woman with dreams of becoming a doctor during the early years of Sri Lanka’s civil war. Eighteen months after it was published to rave reviews in the New York Times Book Review and the New Yorker, that novel has achieved international recognition with not one but two major awards: the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction ($150,000) and the Women's Prize for Fiction ($38,000). 

The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction is named after the North American author who won both the Pulitzer and the Women's Prize for Fiction. It aims to address the continued inequality of women in the literary world by recognizing fiction written by women and non-binary authors published in the US and Canada. Ganeshananthan's win was announced May 13 in Toronto. The Jury Citation noted, “An ambitious and beautifully written novel, Brotherless Night explores how ordinary people can be swept up in political violence. Through her sensitively crafted characters, V. V. Ganeshananthan asks us to consider how history is told, whom it serves, and the many truths it leaves out. A magnificent book.”

Professor Ganeshananthan was announced as the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction on June 13 in London. The award was established in 1996 to highlight and remedy the imbalance in coverage, respect, and reverence given to women writers versus their male peers; it is awarded annually to the author of the best full-length novel of the year written in English and published in the UK. "In rich, evocative prose," said Chair of Judges Monica Ali, "Ganeshananthan creates a vivid sense of time and place and an indelible cast of characters. Her commitment to complexity and clear-eyed moral scrutiny combines with spellbinding storytelling to render Brotherless Night a masterpiece of historical fiction."


In her Women's Prize speech, Ganeshananthan acknowledged the long process of writing the novel. "In the US, this novel can vote," she said to laughter. "I want to thank my colleagues and my students, from whom I've learned so much."

The professor also expressed gratitude to the many people she interviewed to research the book, especially the Tamil people who described their experiences during the civil war. "I hope the good work of telling these stories makes it necessary and possible to tell different stories," said Ganeshananthan, "about collective liberation, freedom with justice, and security for all."

After winning the Shields Prize, the novelist and journalist told the Star Tribune, "I'm still a little, 'Really?' And I may feel that way for a while."

Warm congratulations to Professor Ganeshananthan. 

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