ruth ozeki: Author and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki wins Women’s Prize for Fiction


Renowned US-Canadian author, film-maker, and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year for her novel ‘The Book of Form and Emptiness’. Chairwoman Mary Ann Sieghart said the novel “stood out for its sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humor and poignancy.”

“A celebration of the power of books and reading, it tackles big issues of life and death, and is a complete joy to read. Ruth Ozeki is a truly original and masterful storyteller, ”she added.

Ozeki’s fourth novel, ‘The Book of Form and Emptiness’ tells the story of a thirteen-year-old boy who, after the tragic death of his father, begins to hear the voices of objects speaking to him.

Accepting the award, Ozeki told the audience it was “absurd”; she said she didn’t “win things”. In her speech, she thanked the women and women institutions who had supported her throughout her career. “I wanted to call out the names of the women who have supported me, because now more than ever this is a time that we need to speak out and rewrite the dominant narratives that have landed us into quite dire straits.”

The other five shortlisted books included ‘The Bread the Devil Knead’ by Lisa Allen-Agostini, ‘The Sentence’ by Louise Erdrich, ‘Sorrow and Bliss’ by Meg Mason,’ The Island of Missing Trees’ by Elif Shafak, and ‘Great Circle ‘by Maggie Shipstead.

The Women’s prize for fiction, formerly known as the Orange and then the Baileys prize, was launched in 1996 and is awarded to “the best full-length novel of the year by a woman” written in English and published in the UK. Last year the award was won by Susanna Clarke for Piranesi, her follow-up to ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’. Previous winners include Zadie Smith, Madeline Miller, Ali Smith, and Kamila Shamsie.

Meanwhile, for the unacquainted, Ozeki’s books and films, including the novels ‘My Year of Meats’ (1998), ‘All Over Creation’ (2003), and ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ (2013), seek to integrate personal narrative and social issues and deal with themes relating to science, technology, environmental politics, race, religion, war, and global popular culture. Her novels have been translated into more than thirty languages. She teaches creative writing at Smith College where she is the Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities in the Department of English Language and Literature. She is affiliated with the Everyday Zen Foundation.

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