Honored to receive the 2023 Mass Book Award in Fiction for The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali at the Massachusetts State House in Boston at the ceremony last week. Given by Mass Center for the Book, the award has this citation from the judges:
'The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali is a sweeping historical epic, set in the Andaman Islands. Centered on the experiences of Nomi and Zee, children born to a convict and his wife, the novel shows how their day-to-say existence is sharply altered with the advent of World War II and their homeland moving from British to Japanese control. Beautiful language and page-turning events combine to make this novel eminently readable, illuminating an under-represented part of the word during perhaps the highest impact event of the 20th century.'
As returning visitors to my blog likely know, and as I shared in my acceptance remarks, the language took a long time to find. Language was failing me because the archives were failing me. Because of the colonial project itself, the selective erasure that it's built upon. Much of what I know is through sources that omit people like me--brown, Muslim women from the Global South, ourselves products of multiple displacements caused by colonialism and war. Once I understood that I couldn't trust the 'facts,' only then did a language for my characters begin to form, one of imagination, of enchantment. One that I could trust. It took 27 years (+ 3 for US publication). In all that time, though the geography has remained under-represented, tragically, the story has always been as much about the present as the past.
It touches me deeply that the award is from the state where the book found its completion, and where I still live. Truly, I didn't expect to win. There were v big names up this year that I was sure it would go to. Huge thanks to the judges and again to MCB for promoting books & writers, reading & libraries. Congratulations to all the winners, honorees & must-reads. Enjoy some pics.
|Courtney Andree, Executive Director of MCB, our wonderful emcee. Photo: Merrill Shea
|Me + the story of the story. Photo: David Maine
|Me + the story. Photo Credit: Merrill Shea