2020 Bocas Prize winners crowned

Haitian author Edwidge Danticat.
Edwidge Danticut/FB

The 10th edition of the prestigious regional festival, NGC Bocas Lit Fest 2020, was held virtually on Facebook and YouTube last month due to ongoing restrictions with the COVID-19 global pandemic, according to the Trinidad Express.

Trinidadian-born author Richard Georges was the OCM Bocas Overall Prize winner, with his “moving” novel, “Epiphaneia,” the Express said.

It said Guyanese-born Tessa McWatt’s “Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging” copped the OCM Bocas Prize Non-Fiction.

Trinidadian-born writer Amanda Choo Quan was awarded the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers (JAAWP) prize for Non-Fiction, the Express said.

It also said that US-based, Haitian-born author Edwidge Danticat was presented with the OCM Bocas Prize Fiction for her novel “Everything Inside.”

Danticat called the OCM prize “a most incredible honor” before quoting late American author Toni Morrison to issue a challenge to her fellow awardees and writers across the region to continue to do their part to lift the spirits of the peoples of the Caribbean, according to the Express.

“For our writers and creators, as the great Toni Morrison once said: ‘this is exactly when we go to work.’

“To quote Ms Morrison: ‘there is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear; we speak, we write, we do language, that is how civilizations heal,’” Danticat said.

The Express said Georges “looked genuinely stunned” during his acceptance video of the award.

It said his 2019 novel “takes a revealing post-catastrophe look into life in the British Virgin Islands, where he was raised, after the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma in 2017.”

Georges has been on the Bocas Lit radar for the past three years, the Express said, adding that his 2017 book, “Make Us All Islands,” was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

His second book, “Giant (2018)”, was “highly commended by the Forward Prize judges and long-listed for the OCM Bocas Prize,” the Express said.

It said McWatt dedicated her OCM Bocas Non-Fiction prize for “Shame on Me” to her mother.

Raised in Canada, McWatt, a professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia (UEA), in Norwich, England, “explores identity, race and belonging from the perspective of a writer who has endured decades of racism and bigotry,” the Express said.

“I would like to thank my family, my extended family and my immediate family for going with me on a journey as I researched and wrote, and experienced this book both before it came into the world and since it’s been out in the world,” the Express quoted McWatt as saying. “The book would not exist without my parents.

“My late father would be very proud, and I’d like to thank my mother whose stories and whose love form the spine of this book,” she added. “I would like to give this award to her, so thanks, mom.”

Earlier, a “deeply honored” Choo Quan accepted the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers prize for Non-Fiction from the son of the award’s namesake, Dr. Kongshiek Achong Low, during a pre-recorded exchange at The Writers Centre, Alacazar Street, St. Clair, the Express said.

A masked Achong Low said he sponsors the prize in his parents’ name since he believes “creative writing is very important and forms the basis of the soul of the human being of knowing and understanding other human counterparts,” according to the Express.

“I hope when you complete your book it goes on to be a number one bestseller,” Achong Low said before giving Choo Quan a congratulatory elbow bump.

Choo Quan said the prize validates her unfinished work and encourages her “to continue to contribute” to a space where writers are accepted, according to the Express.

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