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The Shortlist for the 2018 Dylan Thomas Prize Has Been Announced

This year’s shortlist for the 2018 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize has been announced, with women writers dominating the chosen titles. The prize is one of the the biggest for authors under the age of 40 writing in English, with this year’s winner set to receive a prize of £30,000.

The prize was launched in 2006 and was created to encourage young writers worldwide in their raw talent and literary excellence. This year also marks the 65th anniversary of the death of Dylan Thomas, who was chosen as the figurehead for this prize because of his fame as an adolescent writer, serving as an inspiration for young writers across the world. Commenting on this year’s shortlist Chairman of the judges, Prof Dai Smith, called it "an amazing showcase of young writing talent from across the globe.”

The 2018 list, which consists of six entries, in a range of forms including novels, short stories, and poetry, features four women authors and four debut authors. The winner will be announced on the 10th of May. You can discover the six entries in our reading list below.

Her Body And Other Parties

In her provocative debut, Cuban-American author and short story writer Carmen Maria Machado demolishes the borders between magical realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Startling narratives map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited on their bodies, both in myth and in practice. A wife refuses her husband's entreaties to remove the mysterious green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague spreads across the earth. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery about a store's dresses. One woman's surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted house guest. Bodies become inconsequential, humans become monstrous, and anger becomes erotic. A dark, shimmering slice into womanhood, Her Body and Other Parties is wicked and exquisite.

'A wild thing ... covered in sequins and scales, blazing with the influence of fabulists from Angela Carter to Kelly Link and Helen Oyeyemi' - New York Times

Idaho

One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, sing snatches of songs as they while away the time. But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction. In this Emily Ruskovich’s debut novel the story is told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.

My Absolute Darling

Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father. Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle's escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well. Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving read that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.

First Love

Neve is a writer in her mid-30s married to an older man, Edwyn. For now they are in a place of relative peace, but their past battles have left scars. As Neve recalls the decisions that led her to this marriage, she tells of other loves and other debts, from her bullying father and her self-involved mother to a musician who played her, and a series of lonely flights from place to place. Drawing the reader into the battleground of her relationship, Neve spins a story of helplessness and hostility, an ongoing conflict in which both husband and wife have played a part. But is this, nonetheless, also a story of love? Gwendoline Riley’s novel has already received recognition, being shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017.

Kumukanda

Translating as `initiation', kumukanda is the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man. The poems of Kayo Chingonyi's remarkable debut explore this passage: between two worlds, ancestral and contemporary; between the living and the dead; between the gulf of who he is and how he is perceived. Underpinned by a love of music, language and literature, here is a powerful exploration of race, identity and masculinity, celebrating what it means to be British and not British, all at once. Kumukanda already has been included in a slew of literary prize shortlists including the Jhalak Prize and the Costa Poetry Prize, as well as being selected as a 2017 Book of the Year in the Guardian and Daily Telegraph.

`A brilliant debut - a tender, nostalgic and at times darkly hilarious exploration of black boyhood, masculinity and grief - from one of my favourite writers' - Warsan Shire 

Conversations with Friends

Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed and observant. A student in Dublin and an aspiring writer, at night she performs spoken word with her best friend Bobbi, who used to be her girlfriend. When they are interviewed and then befriended by Melissa, a well-known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, they enter a world of beautiful houses, raucous dinner parties and holidays in Provence, beginning a complex menage-a-quatre. As their relationships unfold, in person and online, they discuss sex and friendship, art and literature, politics and gender, and, of course, one another. But when Frances and Nick get unexpectedly closer, the sharply witty and emotion-averse Frances is forced to honestly confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time. You can read Conversations with Friends as a romantic comedy, or you can read it as a feminist text. You can read it as a book about infidelity, about the pleasures and difficulties of intimacy, or about how our minds think about our bodies. However you choose to read it, it is an unforgettable novel about the possibility of love. The debut novel by Irish novelist Sally Rooney has received widespread acclaim and has already been named a Sunday Times, Observer, and Telegraph book of the year.

Editorial content writer at Bookwitty. Lives up to her name by having a housemate called Watson, but is still working on the violin-playing and crime-solving.