Awards: Firecracker Finalists; James Tait Black Winners

Finalists have been selected for the 10th annual Firecracker Awards, sponsored by the Community of Literary Magazines & Presses (CLMP) and honoring "the best independently published books of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry and the best literary magazines in the categories of debut and general excellence." Winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on June 27. To see the finalists in five categories, click here.


Winners have been selected for the James Tait Black Prizes in fiction and biography, which have been presented by the University of Edinburgh since 1919. This year there were several firsts in the history of the prizes, both in the biography category. For the first time, there were two winners of the biography prize, and also for the first time, an author and translator jointly won a prize.

The winner of the fiction prize is Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright (published in the U.S. by New Directions), which, the organization said, explores "the climate crisis and how it affects the fictional town of Praiseworthy in northern Australia." A member of the Waanyi nation in Australia, Wright has written several award-winning fiction and nonfiction books. Praiseworthy is her fourth novel.

Fiction judge Dr Benjamin Bateman of the University of Edinburgh called Praiseworthy "a kaleidoscopic and brilliantly conceived novel that interweaves matters of climate and Indigenous justice in prose that accomplishes the most difficult of feats--being funny and simultaneously ferociously engaged with some of the most pressing ethical and political questions of our contemporary moment."

The joint winners of the biography prize are Traces of Enayat by Iman Mersal, translated by Robin Moger (Transit Books), and Fassbinder: Thousands of Mirrors by Ian Penman (Semiotext(e)).

Traces of Enayat illuminates the life story of author Enayat al-Zayyat, whose only novel, Love and Silence, was published posthumously following her suicide in her early 20s. First published in Arabic in 2019, Traces of Enayat is a memoir of Mersal's journey through a changing Cairo as she traces her subject's life. Born in Egypt and living now in Canada, Mersel is a poet, writer, academic and translator who has published several works covering topics such as motherhood and parent-child relationships. Robin Moger is an award-winning translator of Arabic literature to English.

Biography judge Dr Simon Cooke of the University of Edinburgh called Traces of Enayat "an absorbing work of recovery and appreciation: formally inventive and reflective in its fusion of biographical approaches into a form all its own, beautifully attentive to the elusive, and deeply moving in its evocation of Enayat al-Zayyat's life. It vividly opens up the cultural world of Cairo--and Enayat's relation to it--in a translation of great tonal and narrative integrity, even as the book traverses different forms and registers."

Fassbinder: Thousands of Mirrors is "an insight into the post-Second World War culture of sex, drugs and rock and roll through the eyes of West German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder," organizers said. "It presents a portrait of the artist, who created more than 40 films and is regarded one of the major figures of the New German Cinema movement."

A British writer, music journalist and critic, Penman is the author of three books and contributes to a range of magazines and publications, including the London Review of Books.

Biography judge Dr Simon Cooke called Fassbinder: Thousands of Mirrors "an extraordinary, signal achievement in the art of life-writing: poetically luminous at every turn, fascinating and agile in form, and hauntingly moving as a portrait--of Fassbinder, vividly brought to life on the page in all his complexity of the wider culture. A time-bound meditation in fragments, it also has a deep, powerfully affecting tonal integrity and pathos."

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