Bajaber Wins First Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction

The Ursula K. Le Guin Trust today announced the winner of the inaugural Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction, Khadija Abdalla Bajaber, author of The House of Rust.

The jury also named two finalists: How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu and The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente.

In Bajaber’s debut novel, published by Graywolf Press, young Aisha sets out in the company of a talking cat and a boat made of bones to rescue her fisherman father. Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s debut novel is grounded in a vivid sense of place and the way she continuously expands both Aisha’s world and her understanding of it—a world of leviathans, snake gods, and crows whose sharp eyes are on everyone. The jury praised Bajaber’s transcendent writing and innovative, transporting story, saying: “Scene after scene is gleaming, textured, utterly devoid of cliché and arresting in its wisdom. The novel’s structure is audacious and its use of language is to die for.”

The nine shortlisted books were chosen by the Ursula K. Le Guin Literary Trust following a public nomination process. The prize jurors were adrienne maree brown, Becky Chambers, Molly Gloss, David Mitchell, and Luis Alberto Urrea.

DESIGN FOR THE PHYSICAL PRIZE FOR 2022. Every shortlist author (including the finalists and winner) receives a risograph print designed by Tuesday Smillie. The text is drawn from Ursula’s essay “Some Thoughts on Narrative,” published in the essay collection: Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places (Grove Press). Each author’s name and the title of the recognized book is hand-lettered in the purple “sticky note” (actually printed as part of the artwork) at bottom right.

During the design process, Smillie wrote, “For the print, I am envisioning that the black background, a little bit of shadow in the paper, the blue lines and one red line will be risograph printed…The print will have a feeling of material translation, similar to the watercolor rendering of various editions of The Left Hand of Darkness [a reference to Smillie’s “Reflecting Light Into The Unshadow” series]. The text block and pink post-it note will be letterpress printed. The letterpress printing will not be deeply debossed, but the letterpress will create a crisp, precise, legible text block…Letterpress printing the post-it will provide a stable, consistent ground for the name to be written into.”

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