Guardian writer and Observer critic longlisted for inaugural Women’s prize for nonfiction | Books

Guardian writer and Observer critic longlisted for inaugural Women’s prize for nonfiction | Books


Capitalism, artificial intelligence, Renaissance history and motherhood are among the topics explored in the books on the inaugural Women’s prize for nonfiction longlist.

Sixteen women – including Guardian US columnist Naomi Klein, Observer art critic Laura Cumming and historian Tiya Miles – are now in the running for the £30,000 prize, launched last year to redress the relatively low numbers of women recognised in nonfiction prizes.

The “groundbreaking” longlisted titles are “about redressing wrongs – so whether that’s exposing truth, or revealing hypocrisy or uncovering hidden stories – there’s a dedication to truth”, said chair of judges and historian Suzannah Lipscomb.

Klein was longlisted for Doppelganger, in which she writes about being mistaken for the feminist writer turned conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf. Prize judge and biographer Anne Sebba said that Doppelganger was “such a clever book” because Klein “takes what, on the face of it, is a simple idea of having a double, someone who is frequently thought of as her, but then expands this to construct a dark comedy of a rather terrifying mirror image world”.

Miles made the longlist for All That She Carried, a story of slavery centred on a sack that an enslaved woman passes on to her daughter. The book “finds a way to give voice to the wordless by using a mundane, domestic object – a cloth sack and its contents – to thread an extraordinary tale through the generations”, wrote Colin Grant in his Guardian review.

Quick Guide

Women’s prize for nonfiction 2024

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The Britannias by Alice Albinia (Allen Lane) 

Vulture Capitalism by Grace Blakeley (Bloomsbury) 

Eve by Cat Bohannon (Hutchinson
Heinemann)

Intervals by Marianne Brooker (Fitzcarraldo)  

Shadows at Noon by Joya Chatterji (Bodley Head)  

Thunderclap by Laura Cumming (Chatto & Windus)

Some People Need Killing by Patricia Evangelista (Grove Press)

Wifedom by Anna Funder  

Matrescence by Lucy Jones (Allen Lane)

Doppelganger by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane) 

A Flat Place by Noreen Masud (Hamish Hamilton) 

All That She Carried by Tiya Miles (Profile) 

Code-Dependent by Madhumita Murgia (Picador) 

The Dictionary People by Sarah Ogilvie (Chatto & Windus)  

Young Queens by Leah Redmond Chang (Bloomsbury)

How to Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair (4th Estate)

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The 16 titles will be narrowed down to a shortlist of six, to be announced on 27 March. The winner will be announced alongside the fiction prize on 13 June. Along with the cash prize, the winning author will receive an artwork, known as The Charlotte, created by sculptor Ann Christopher.

Cummings was selected for Thunderclap, about the early deaths of Dutch painter Carel Fabritius and Cumming’s father. “I love this book because of the way she intertwines a subtle and tender love of her father with a deep understanding of Dutch art,” said Sebba.

Lipscomb noted that many, though not all of the longlisted books feature a “personal voice”, weaving academic research with personal reflections. “There’s a sense of owning one’s subjectivity as an author that comes out of these, and I think that might be a zeitgeisty thing – it might be that if we’d launched this prize 10 years ago, that wouldn’t be the case. But that’s an interesting phenomenon.”

Other memoiristic titles chosen include Safiya Sinclair’s How to Say Babylon, about growing up Rastafari, and Intervals by Marianne Brooker, about her mother’s illness and death.

The launch of the nonfiction prize came in the wake of research commissioned by the Women’s prize that found that only 35% of books awarded a nonfiction prize over the past 10 years were written by women, across seven UK nonfiction prizes.

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While the longlist was made up of “brilliant” books across “economics and technology and science and history and investigative journalism”, said Lipscomb, “there were fewer books submitted in some of these areas than one might have hoped, and perhaps fewer books submitted in adjacent areas, like philosophy, literary criticism, geopolitics, mathematics, sports”. Lipscomb hopes that the prize will encourage publishers to “invest in female writers writing in these fields”.

Also on the longlist are The Dictionary People by Sarah Ogilvie, The Britannias by Alice Albinia, Vulture Capitalism by Grace Blakeley, Eve by Cat Bohannon, Shadows at Noon by Joya Chatterji, Some People Need Killing by Patricia Evangelista, Wifedom by Anna Funder, Matrescence by Lucy Jones, Flat Place by Noreen Masud, Code Dependent by Madhumita Murgia and Young Queens by Leah Redmond Chang.

This year’s prize was open to books published in the UK between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024. Alongside Lipscomb and Sebba on the judging panel are fair fashion campaigner Venetia La Manna, author Nicola Rollock, and winner of the 2018 Women’s prize for fiction Kamila Shamsie.



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