Abiola Oni has won the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story competition. She claims the £1,000 award for her astonishing speculative fiction vision of dystopia in, 75.
4th Estate is an innovative imprint within the publishing industry, and is proud of its reputation for producing critically-acclaimed and beautifully-designed titles since 1984. The B4ME competition is a new short story prize launched in partnership with the Guardian newspaper. It is specifically aimed at entrants of UK-based black, Asian minority ethnic background to track down their missing literary talent. Submission opened on 29th January and the shortlist was announced on 9th May. Oni was announced the winner on 20th June.
A 33-year-old market researcher from London, Oni spent part of her childhood in Nigeria, since when she has loved literature. She also wrote volumes of angsty poetry as a teenager.
Author Nikesh Shukla, who was one of the hugely impressed judges said, “She wrote a story that was unexpected, warm and clinical, all at once. She writes with confidence, and keeps a lot of plates spinning: family dynamics, loss, resignation, and a final cruel ending. It stood out as a great example of confident genre writing.”
Fellow judges were BuzzFeed’s Bim Adewunmi; Waterstones’ head of books, Melissa Cox; writer Bernardine Evaristo; 4th Estate editor Anna Kelly; and Guardian women’s editor Nosheen Iqbal.
They were pleased to find entries of wide-ranging subject matter, spanning moments in history, different countries, regions, cultures and perspectives.
“It made me realise how untidy the word “diversity” is, lumping so many cultures into one homogenous mess.” Shukla said. Other entries were the hilarious dialogue in Netflix and Chill by Bolu Babalola to the zeitgeisty, Birthday Honours by ND Gomes and the poetic, A Little History of Love by Ishita Marwah. Days of Apryl, Chloe Ewart explores loneliness and love in a big city, while Black Flag by Guy Gunaratne is peppered with streetwise sadness as the city implodes around its main character.
London-based Malaysian writer Tash Aw said, “we live in a rapidly changing world, one which produces new stories all the time. But it’s never been harder to break into the publishing world, and we risk losing the diversity and complexity of those voices. This prize is a small but hugely valuable step in in supporting writers from minority backgrounds, and helping them gain the visibility that their work deserves.”
75 is published on the Guardian books website.