Hannah Lowe shortlisted for the 2024 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award — Blake Friedmann (2024)

Costa Book Award-winner Hannah Lowe has been shortlisted for the highly prestigious 2024 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award.

The award is given annually to two writers in the early stages of a new book relating to the Americas, with the £20,000 prize now in its 13th year. Along with the £20,000 grant, the winners also receive a residency at the British Library, the chance to appear at future Hay Festival editions with their published work, and the opportunity to work with the Eccles Centre to develop and facilitate activities and events related to their research at the British Library. Past winners include Olivia Laing, John Burnside and Ayanna Lloyd Banwo.

The other writers on this year’s shortlist are Mexican novelist Julian Herbert Chavez, Irish art critic Isobel Harbison, Bolivian novelist Rodrigo Hasbún, British-American historian Sarah M.S. Pearsall, and Chilean novelist Alia Trabucco Zerán. You can read about them and their work here.

Hannah’s submitted work for the award was a lyrical, hybrid memoir, with the working title of MOY: In Search of Nelsa Lowe. It uses the intimate story of her Chinese Jamaican aunt – a folk healer, amputee, hostess of a famous waterfront restaurant, and ‘madam’ of a portside brothel – as a device for exploring the history of the Chinese in Jamaica, women’s sexual labour, and the culture of folk healing.

The judges said: ‘We were enthralled by Hannah Lowe’s inventive approach to conjuring Nelsa, her Afro-Chinese Jamaican aunt. Remarkably, Lowe evokes Nelsa through a single portrait photo and along the way excavates other marginalised women whose lives are rarely noted in official archives.’

The winners will be announced at an awards reception at the British Library on Wednesday 29 November.

About Hannah Lowe

Hannah Lowe was born in Ilford to an English mother and Jamaican-Chinese father. Her 2021 poetry collection, THE KIDS, won the Costa Book of the Year Award 2021 after winning the Costa Poetry Award. It was also shortlisted for the 2021 T.S. Eliot Prize, was a Poetry Book Society Choice for Autumn 2021 and an Irish Times and Guardian poetry book of the year.

Her first book-length collection, CHICK, won the 2015 Michael Murphy Memorial Prize and was selected for the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets 2014 promotion. Her second full-length collection, CHAN, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016, followed by a pamphlet, THE NEIGHBOURHOOD (Out-Spoken Press) in 2019. Her prose memoir, LONG TIME NO SEE, exploring her relationship with her half-Chinese, half-Jamaican immigrant father, was published by Periscope in 2015.

Praise for THE KIDS

‘This is a playful yet moving collection that will make the reader frown and laugh, sometimes both at once.’ – Mary Jean Chan, The Guardian, ‘The Best Recent Poetry’

‘Lowe’s social conscience, grounded register and frank humanity recall Tony Harrison...’ – Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph

‘Hannah Lowe's brilliant and entertaining book of sonnets, THE KIDS, is one of the most humorous and tender collections of recent times.’ – Sean Hewitt, The Irish Times, ‘Best poetry of 2021’

‘THE KIDS is the real deal. A page turner about the experience of teaching and being taught, it made us want to punch the air with joy... A contemporary book that buzzes with life while re-energising the sonnet that Shakespeare would recognise. All readers will find something of themselves here.’ – Costa Poetry Award Judges Rishi Dastidar, Ian Duhig and Maya Jaggi

‘A book to fall in love with – it’s joyous, it’s warm and it’s completely universal. It’s crafted and skilful but also accessible… I felt the centre of gravity in the room was with THE KIDS because it fulfils everything that the Costa Book of the Year should be. It’s very readable, very accessible, broad appeal, it’s the sort of book that you could hand to anybody because you would know that everyone would get something out of it… It is a book of poetry, it’s a book of sonnets, but Hannah Lowe is in no way constrained by the form of the poetry. The language just speaks very directly to the reader. It’s a very audacious, utterly successful book, I think, because it’s taking a classical art form, that goes back hundreds of years, and making it bang up-to-date, completely contemporary. We all thought it was so fresh and original.’ – Reeta Chakrabarti, chair of Costa Prize judges

Visit Hannah’s website

Follow Hannah on X (previously Twitter) and Instagram

Hannah Lowe shortlisted for the 2024 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award — Blake Friedmann (2024)
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