Bryan Washington has won the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for his short story collection LOT depicting the diversity of Houston, Texas. The twenty-seven-year-old American writer was named a winner and awarded the £30,000 prize in a virtual award ceremony on 14 May 2020.
On receiving the 2020 award, Washington 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 honor to tell stories about the communities that are dear to me, and the communities that I live among – marginalized communities, communities of color, and queer communities of color, 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.”
A kickass voice
Published by Atlantic Books, Washington began writing LOT in 2016 with an ambition to chart the city of Houston’s geography, focusing on the interior lives of his marginalized 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 neighborhoods. 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 stunning insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life.
The winner was chosen by a bumper judging panel chaired by Swansea University Professor Dai Smith CBE who said, “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.”
The prize is given for the best published literary work in English written by an author 39 years or younger. It 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)