'All Over Again' takes top award
Jamaican A-dZiko Simba Gegele's vibrant debut novel All Over Again (published by Blouse and Skirt Books) copped the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature at the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago last Friday. Blouse and Skirt Books is an imprint of Blue Moon Publishing.
The award, celebrating novels for young adults, was announced at a gala event on Friday, at which President of Trinidad and Tobago His Excellency Anthony Carmona was the guest speaker. Simba Gegele was among a shortlist of six writers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica.
"A-dZiko Gegele is a sensational writer," said Burt Award chief juror, Mala Morton Gittens. "Her novel appeals to readers of all ages and all genders," she continued, also describing the book as "linguistically exciting".
The Burt Award is funded and orchestrated by CODE, a Canadian non government organisation dedicated to advancing literacy, in combination with philanthropist William 'Bill' Burt, after whom the award is named. CODE currently organises prizes in Canada, Africa and the Caribbean.
"I realised that reading fiction helped me achieve what I have in life," said Burt, a former commodities trader. "It's my hope that this prize will help young people here in the Caribbean read more and read better," he said.
HE Carmona lauded the supporters of the award and expressed great fondness for Jamaica, where he attended university at the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Mona campus. "So it is in fact a defining moment for me and I want all of you to give adulation to a great writer," he said.
Purpose of the award
Scott Walker, executive director of CODE, explained that the Burt Award is specifically designed to get books into the hands of readers and features a cash award for the writer, as well as a guaranteed purchase of 2,500 copies of each winning book, to be distributed to schools and libraries across the region. "We want them (the region's children) to have so much choice, it's an embarrassment of riches," Walker said.
The inaugural competition received a total submission of 38 manuscripts and published books. The other shortlisted entrants were Colleen Smith Dennis for Inner City Girl (Jamaica, LMH Publishing), Musical Youth (Joanne Hillhouse, Antigua and Barbuda), Island Princess in Brooklyn (Diane Browne, Jamaica, Carlong Publishing), Joanne Skerrett (Dominica, Papillotte Press) for Abraham's Treasure and Gynis Guevara (Trinidad and Tobago) for Barrel Girl.
Hillhouse received the second-place prize of Can$7,000, while Smith Dennis received Can$5,000 for third place. Simba Gegele received Can$10,000.
The NGC Bocas Lit Fest 2014 took place at the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago, Port-of-Spain, from April 23 to 27.