Dubai-based author Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar has made it to the Booker Shortlist, making it one of the four entries by debutant writers to have features in the esteemed list.
The novel, also titled Girl In White Cotton, is a tale of a fraught relationship between a mother and daughter. Doshi, an art curator, began working on the novel seven years ago and wrote the final draft in Dubai. Over the past couple of months, her debut novel has received accolades globally for its stark portrayal of motherhood and incisive language. Speaking to Khaleej Times shortly after the Booker Shortlist had been announced, Doshi said, “I knew since Thursday but now I am thrilled to share this with everyone I know. To be honest, I did not know what to expect. It really depended on the judges, on which books moved them. I was hopeful, but the longlist already seemed so unreal.”
British writer Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and The Light, billed to have earned her a third Booker Prize, did not make it to the shortlist that features works by four first-time authors. “It is massively encouraging for first-time authors, especially in the year of Covid-19 where many authors, especially those who are writing their first books are struggling to get noticed. I think this will encourage publishers to look for more debuts,” Doshi said.
Other nominees include Diane Cook, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Douglas Stuart, Maaza Mengiste and Brandon Taylor. Talking about the sheer diversity of themes in this year’s shortlist, Booker chair Margaret Busby said, “Every book that we have chosen makes one bring all one’s attention, emotions to understanding what the writer was trying to say. And I think that’s important.” The works do celebrate diversity in that the themes are wide-ranging – memory loss, social landscape of Zimbabwe, climate change and women soldiers in Ethiopia. The winner will be announced on November 17.