2023 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award shortlist announced

The British Library and Hay Festival are delighted to reveal the shortlist for the 2023 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award. Given annually to two writers in the early stages of a new book relating to the Americas, the £20,000 prize is now in its twelfth year.

Six writers make up the 2023 shortlist: Guatemalan writer Eduardo Tenenbaum; Trinidadian novelist Ayanna Lloyd Banwo; British writer Jarred McGinnis; British-American writer Malachi McIntosh; Irish-Canadian writer Joanna Pocock and Colombian writer Velia Vidal Romero.

Two winners each hold the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award for one year from 1 January and receive £20,000, in four quarterly grants; a residency at the British Library, with unique access to the expertise of the Library’s curatorial staff; the chance to appear at future Hay Festival editions with their published work; and the opportunity to work with the Eccles Centre to develop and facilitate activities and events related to their research at the British Library.

The award is judged by a panel comprising Eccles Fisher Associates Director Catherine Eccles, Hay Festival International Director Cristina Fuentes La Roche, the British Library’s Head of America, Europe and Oceana Mercedes Aguirre, historian Colin Grant, and Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library Polly Russell.

Polly Russell, Head of the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, said: “The standard of applications for 2023 was incredibly high and, as a result, the task of selecting a shortlist was not easy. After long and considered deliberations, the judges finally settled on six fantastic projects, each of which has the potential to illuminate a different aspect of the Americas and a distinct part of the British Library’s collections.”

Cristina Fuentes La Roche, international director at Hay Festival, said: “With more submissions than ever before, this year’s judging for the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award was inspiring and challenging. We are incredibly proud of this shortlist. Any one of these would make a worthy winner of the 2023 award. We look forward to announcing the winners next month and for supporting and sharing their work in illuminating the Americas for many years to come.”

The winners will be announced at an awards reception at the British Library on Wednesday 23 November. The 2022 winners were the novelist Javier Montes and historian Philip Clark.


Eduardo Tenenbaum

In My Two Wars Eduardo Halfon Tenenbaum will use the story of a Jewish youth summer camp in Guatemala during the 1980s as a vehicle to explore the legacies of the Holocaust and Guatemalan internal armed conflict. Bringing together these two stories in a novel will highlight painful histories of war, migration and dislocation.

The judges were excited by the potential of this writer’s novel to introduce readers to the history of Jewish migration to and from Guatemala and Latin America. Grounded in personal trauma, the novel promises to tell an important story about the Holocaust, Guatemalan conflict and the xenophobic history of the 20th century.

Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

Dark Eye Place tells the story of a family house, passed down to the daughter of each generation. Set in post-emancipation Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, the novel explores women’s changing lives, family relationships, inheritance and ideas of belonging in the context of great social upheaval.

The judges were drawn to the idea of using a crumbling house in Trinidad, passed down through the women of the family, as a way to explore patriarchal inheritance laws, women’s lives, migration and urbanisation against a backdrop of the great plantation estates and élite town houses.  Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s second novel promises to build on a new talent.

Malachi McIntosh

Malachi McIntosh’s A Revolutionary Consciousness describes the emergence of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM). Focusing on the Movement’s three founders, John La Rose, Edward Kamau Brathwaite and Andrew Salkey, the book will document how CAM ignited a new consciousness and inspired Black artists in the decades to come.

A Revolutionary Consciousness traces the origins and emergence of the Caribbean Arts Movement of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and details its enduring and important legacies. Using a broad range of archival sources, the judges have no doubt that McIntosh will bring to life a history that deserves to be more widely known and cherished.

Jarred McGinnis

In The Mountain Weight, Jarred McGinnis mines his family’s history, from the American Civil War to the present day, to examine themes of masculinity, family and migration. This intimate memoir will consider the myths we create about family and ourselves to tell the story of who we are or want to be.

McGinnis’ The Mountain Weight uses a biographical lens to explore themes of masculinity and generational violence in the United States. The judges were impressed by the emotional power of McGinnis’ synopsis and the proposed use of archival material to tell an intimate story and broad social history.

Velia Vidal Romero

Affluents takes inspiration from Vilia Vidal Romero’s encounters with the Latin American collections found in the British Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum and the British Library. Romero’s non-fiction book assesses the collections amassed in the 1960s in the Colombian El-Choco region by British anthropologists Brian Moser and Donald Tyler to understand how outsiders have narrated and understood her ancestors and the place she was born and lives.

Affluents will be a non-fiction book that questions North-South relations, racism and colonialism in the ways of narrating the other. The judges found this original project compelling and are excited by what it would reveal about unique British Library collections.

Joanna Pocock

In Greyhound Joanna Pocock proposes to explore the built environment and its ecological imprint on the natural world. Combining memoir, narrative account and history, Pocock will take the reader on a journey from Ontario, Canada to Los Angeles, USA to ask questions about environmental breakdown, dislocation and freedom of mobility in the present.

Joanna Pocock’s Greyhound illuminates practices of plunder, pollution and neglect that divides populations and excludes many from its resources. Informed by archive and personal testimonies, Greyhound impressed both as a physical travelogue and a contemplative ‘travels of the mind’.

Find out more about the award here and previous winners here.