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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Weaving narratives: The poetic prose of Fatimah Asghar

The artistic storytelling of Fatimah Asghar wins the inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction for her debut novel, "When We Were Sisters".

On Thursday, May 5, 2023, the inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction was awarded to Fatimah Asghar for her debut novel ‘When We Were Sisters.’ Asghar, a poet and screenwriter, was praised by the judges for her ability to weave narrative threads as exacting and spare as luminous poems, creating a work of fiction that is both delicate and complete. 

When We Were Sisters 

Fatimah Asghar is a rising star in the literary world, known for her powerful poetry and poignant prose. Her debut novel, “When We Were Sisters,” has received widespread critical acclaim, culminating in her being awarded the inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction in 2023. The book explores the lives of three Muslim-American siblings, delving into their complex relationships and the challenges they face as they navigate their cultural and religious identities.

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Asghar’s writing style has been described as poetic, with narrative threads that are both exacting and luminous. Her ability to capture the fragility and completeness of human experience has impressed readers and critics alike. Her win of the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction is particularly significant because it celebrates the achievements of marginalised voices in the literary world and demonstrates the power of storytelling to promote empathy and understanding across cultural divides. Asghar’s work stands as a testament to the importance of diverse voices in literature and the potential of literature to change hearts and minds.

Background on the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction

The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction was established in 2022 and is named after the late Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Carol Shields. The prize is awarded to outstanding work by a woman or non-binary person in the United States or Canada and comes with a $150,000 honorarium. The prize is overseen by the Carol Shields Prize Foundation, which provides grants and other forms of assistance to women and non-binary writers.

Significance of the Award

This award is monumental for several reasons. First, it recognizes the accomplishments of women and non-binary writers who have historically been underrepresented and undervalued in the literary world. By awarding a substantial prize to a writer who identifies as a woman or non-binary person, the foundation is not only celebrating their achievements but also providing them with financial support and visibility. This can help to promote diversity and inclusivity in literature and pave the way for future generations of writers.

Second, the prize is significant because it honours the legacy of Carol Shields, a writer who was known for her feminist perspectives and championing of women’s voices. Shields was a Canadian-born author who spent much of her life in the United States, where she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for her novel ‘The Stone Diaries.’ She was a trailblazer in the literary world, paving the way for women writers to tell their stories and make their voices heard. The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction continues her legacy by celebrating the work of writers and providing them with support and recognition.

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The inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction awarded to Fatimah Asghar for her debut novel ‘When We Were Sisters’ is a significant moment in the literary world. By recognizing the accomplishments of women and non-binary writers and honouring the legacy of Carol Shields, the foundation is helping to create a more diverse and inclusive literary landscape. The impact of this prize is likely to be far-reaching, inspiring and motivating future generations of writers to share their stories and make their voices heard.