Last evening in a virtual ceremony, Raven Leilani was awarded the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize—an annual £20,000 prize given to the best literary English-language work by an author aged 39 or under—for her debut novel Luster. With this win, Leilani joins a roster of previous winners including Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, and Joshua Ferris.
Luster was chosen from a shortlist that included Dima Alzayat’s Alligator and Other Stories; Rye Curtis’s Kingdomtide; Akwaeke Emezi’s The Death of Vivek Oji; Catherine Lacey’s Pew; and Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa. “It was a difficult decision as we had an exceptionally brilliant shortlist—all the books were potential winners,” said judging chair Namita Gokhale. “After many conversations and long deliberations, the jury unanimously decided on Luster.”
Said Gokhale, “Luster is an accomplished and fearless novel that carries the ache, uncertainty and vulnerability as well as the harsh reality of being a young Black woman in America. The narrator Edie’s incisive eye for all registers of racist bias is unblinking and masterly. This is an important, uncomfortable book, in turns funny and angry, and always compelling. Raven Leilani is an astonishingly original new voice.”