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Bocas Prize 2016 Announces All-Female Shortlist

The 2016 OCM Bocas Prize Shortlist

Olive Senior (The Pain Tree), Tiphanie Yanique (Wife) and Jacqueline Bishop (The Gymnast and Other Positions) are the 2016 shortlisted writers for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. For the first time in its short, yet significant history, all three category winners are female. Indeed, Monique Roffey, with Archipelago (2013), has been the only female to win the overall prize to date.

Both Senior and Yanique have previously won category prizes. Senior took home the non-fiction category prize in the 2015 awards for Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the Building of the Panama Canal. Yanique won the fiction prize with her debut short story collection How to Escape from a Leper Colony in 2011. This is Bishop’s first bite at the apple.

The three books will be contending for the overall prize of US$10,000 which will be presented during the 2016 NGC Bocas Lit Fest on April 30.

The judges have described Yanique’s first poetry collection Wife, as an unflinching book of poems. 

“Working within the territories of family, race, sex, inequality and love, Yanique always challenges our sense of self, the lyrical, and asks how feeling might look and sound in poetry,” the judges were cited as saying, in a press release. 

High praise was also heaped on Senior’s short story collection, which was commended for its language as well as its insightful characterizations. “Cruelty, manipulation, Jamaican lore all blend seamlessly into charting a parallel worldview that is anchored in its own legitimacy,” the judges said. They noted that the question of “what lies below the skin of everyday life,” is constantly explored in the collection.

Bishop’s collection of essays, stories and interviews is praised for its innovations. “In a category when autobiographies abound, Bishop’s mosaic of fragmented narratives is as original as it is insightful,” the judges said. “Modern, spontaneous and formally innovative, it blurs the boundaries between the real and the imagined in a journey of self-discovery through the arts of the imagination in the Caribbean and elsewhere.”

Dionne Brand heads up the panel of adjudicators to select the overall winner. She is joined by Ramabai Espinet, Gemma Robinson, and J. Michael Dash while Marjorie Thorpe retains her role as permanent vice-chair.

The Bocas Prize is presented by the Bocas Lit Fest. The 2016 NGC Bocas Lit Fest takes place April 23 - May 1, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.