One of the most coveted accolades for debut novelists, The Desmond Elliott Prize, whose previous two winners were women, has announced a longlist that falls well short of parity this year.
there appear to be some omissions in favour of a list that is as ethnically uniform as it is gender imbalancedJust three of the ten writers are women, and while Kate Clanchy, Eimear McBride and Katharine Grant are worthy choices, there appear to be some omissions in favour of a list that is as ethnically uniform as it is gender imbalanced.
Yet, Chair of the judges, Chris Cleave seemed to think the ten longlisters represented an exhaustive run-down of the past year’s UK-based rising talent, saying, “British and Irish writing is in the best shape it’s been for many years. The strength of these ten astonishing novels proves that our home-grown talent is world class.”
This disappointing round-up has been thrown into sharp relief by Australia’s top-lit prize longlist. While, it also remains ethnically uninspiring, the list recognises seven women writers in its eleven nominees.
Significantly, the Miles Franklin awards has engendered criticism in the past, for all-men shortlists in both 2009 and 2011. Judge, Craig Munro assured that they had not consciously combatted this scrutiny:
“We certainly don’t set out to have any kind of gender theme. It’s only in the last couple days that I’ve counted up the number. [This year] 32 of the 53 entries were by women.”
If this is true, then it is gratifying to see a list that represents prize submission figures. Perhaps, The Desmond Elliott Prize panel could look to their Commonwealth contemporaries when picking a shortlist.