Twenty-seven-year-old American writer Bryan Washington has been named the winner of the £30,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for his debut short story collection, LOT.
On receiving the 2020 award, Bryan said: “It's a gift whenever an audience gives you the time of day for a story, whatever that is, let alone to be acknowledged for your work on such a massive platform. And it's an honour to tell stories about the communities that are dear to me, and the communities that I live among - marginalized communities, communities of colour, and queer communities of colour, specifically. So I'm thankful for the chance to share space with my fellow nominees, and I'm grateful for the support of my friends, and my fam, and my chosen fam. My name's on the award, but it belongs just as much to my Atlantic and Riverhead teams, my agent Danielle Bukowski, and everyone who's given these stories their time. Without y'all, there's no book. I'm very grateful.”
Bryan began writing LOT (Atlantic Books) in 2016 with an ambition to chart the city of Houston’s geography, focussing in on the interior lives of his marginalised fellow citizens. The collection has been lauded as; gut-wrenching, bruising, profound and shattering, offering a deep dive exploration into the people thriving and dying across Houston’s myriad neighbourhoods. From a young woman’s affair detonating across an apartment complex to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey LOT presents a formidable yet tender collection of interlinked tales of uncertain existence and a stunning insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life.
After careful deliberation, the winner was chosen by a bumper judging panel chaired by Swansea University Professor Dai Smith CBE who said of LOT: "Bryan Washington’s collection of short stories, LOT, does what all great fiction does, finds a style that can open up a world that is otherwise unknowable and he does it with wit and grace. It is a real voice, unique, unforgettable, generous, and warm and one which provides us with a sense of community and the full experience of life. As one of the judges said, he has a kickass voice."
Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories, and drama.
The five other titles shortlisted for the 2020 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize were:
- Surge by Jay Bernard (Chatto & Windus)
- Flèche by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)
- Inland by Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
- If All the World and Love were Young by Stephen Sexton (Penguin Random House)
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Jonathan Cape, Vintage)
Previous winners include Guy Gunaratne’s incredible debut novel In Our Made and Furious City in 2019, Kayo Chingonyi’s stunning poetry collection Kumukanda in 2018, Fiona McFarlane’s collection of short stories, The High Places in 2017, Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing with Feathers in 2016, Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour in 2014.