Three Jamaican novels up for Burt Award
Shereita Grizzle, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica continues to blaze a trail in the region's literary field, following the announcement that three of the six books which have been shortlisted for the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature are written by Jamaicans.
Diane Browne's Island Princess in Brooklyn (Jamaica, Carlong Publishers Caribbean), A-dZiko Simba Gegele's All Over Again (Jamaica, Blouse & Skirt Books) and Colleen Smith Dennis' Inner City Girl (Jamaica, LMH Publishing) have been named as nominees for the award. An initiative of the Bocas Literary Festival, held in Trinidad, the Burt Award's aim is to stimulate growth in the region's novel writing sphere, especially in the area of young adult novels.
When The Gleaner contacted Gegele, she expressed her gratitude at being considered for the award. While stating that the reaction from the Jamaican audience at the book's launch back in September was overwhelming, Gegele said the consideration for the award was unexpected.
She went on to highlight the impending benefits this will have for authors and publishers alike. "I am very happy for myself, but I'm especially happy for my publisher. In this business, publishers take a great risk when they decide to support an author, so this doesn't just validate the quality of the work, but it also validates the publisher's faith in the work," she said.
Gegele says that there are three Jamaican nominees is testament to the great work happening within the industry and solicited more support from the Government. "I'm hoping that getting Jamaica on the literary map will encourage the Government to work more closely with persons in the industry because culture is more than just sport and music," she said.
She also hopes that the novels will get more young people interested in reading as she sees that as the way to increase the country's literacy rate. "If more young people become interested, it means you will have an adult generation that will be more interested and this could lead to an eventual increase in the country's literacy rate," Gegele said.
The other Burt Award nominees are Barrel Girl by Glynis Guevara (Trinidad and Tobago), Joanne Hillshouse's Musical Youth (Antigua and Barbuda), and Abraham's Treasure by Joanne Skerrett (Dominica, Papilotte Press).
The winner will receive CDN$10,000, second place earns CDN$7,000, and third place will cop CDN$5,000. Publishers of the winning titles will be awarded a guaranteed purchase of up to 2,500 copies and there is also a commitment to actively market an additional minimum of 1,200 copies of each winning title throughout the region. The placings will be announced on April 25 at a gala event to be held during the 2014 Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago from April 23-27.
The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature was established by CODE, a Canadian charitable organisation that has been advancing literacy and learning for 55 years, in collaboration with William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation. The award is the result of a close collaboration with CODE's local partners in the Caribbean, the Bocas Lit Fest and CaribLit. CODE's Burt Award is a global readership initiative and is also currently established in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Canada.