A Look at the 2024 Women’s Prize for Nonfiction Shortlist

The Women’s Prize for Nonfiction 2024 shortlist is here! Read on to see who made the cut.

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Most of the Women's Prize for Nonfiction Judges, from left to right: Kamila Shamsie, Nicola Rollock, Suzannah Lipscomb, and Venetia La Manna.

The Women’s Prize for Nonfiction, a sister reward to the Women’s Prize for Fiction, recently announced its shortlist of winners for this year. The judges for this award are Venetia La Manna, Nicola Rollock, Anne Sebba, Kamila Shamsie, and Suzannah Lipscomb. They have chosen six books for their shortlist, all of which are shown below.

What is the Women’s Prize for Nonfiction?

Women's Prize for Nonfiction Judges, from left to right: Anne Sebba, Nicola Rollock, Suzannah Lipscomb, Kamila Shamsie, Venetia La Manna.

The Women’s Prize for Nonfiction is a recent prize — in fact, it first started in February 2023. This is the first year the award will be given since the process is supposed to start in the summer of the previous year. This award was started because research found that within the last decade, only about 35 percent of nonfiction winners were women. This award is only given to women who have work published in English and in the UK, though it doesn’t matter where they’re from.

Thunderclap by Laura Cumming

'Thunderclap: A Memoir of Art and Life and Sudden Death' by Laura Cumming book cover showing a painting of the Delft Thunderclap.

There was a huge explosion at a gunpowder store in 1654, called the Thunderclap, that destroyed the city of Delft, killed hundreds of people, and injured thousands. One death was the painter Carel Fabritius, and Cumming centers the story around his life and moment in time while also writing about her father, a painter. Cumming, an art historian and critic, shows the importance of art, how it influences and connects humanity, and has put all that into this book that is both memoir and history.

Doppelganger by Naomi Klein

'Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World' by Naomi Klein book cover showing a glitched woman's face.

The wonderful public intellectual and activist Naomi Klein realized not long ago that she had a doppelganger — Naomi Wolf, whose views Klein found detestable. But their names and personas were so similar people kept getting them mixed up. Klein was disoriented through this experience until she realized it was a manifestation of the strangeness of the modern world: AI is blurring the lines between real and fake information, democracies are slipping into fascism, etc. Everything is falling apart, and Klein uses her humor and sense of the ridiculous not only to show the doubles that haunt us all — as if we are looking in a distorted mirror — but also to try and show a new path.

A Flat Place by Noreen Masud

'A Flat Place: Moving Through Empty Landscapes, Naming Complex Trauma' by Noreen Masud book cover showing flat circles against a pink background.

Flat places are never considered important or beautiful. But Masud, who suffers from PTSD that flattens her emotions, fills her with anxiety, and causes memory blanks at times, thinks otherwise. She uses poetry, history, folklore, and her own life and personal history to express the beauty and wonder of the flat lands she loves and explores. Part memoir, part literary reflection, and part nature writing, this book serves to help her process her past emotions while exploring the healing properties of the land.

All That She Carried by Tiya Miles

'All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake' by Tiya Miles book cover showing an old photo of a group of enslaved people working.

In South Carolina during the 1850s, an enslaved woman, Rose, worried about her daughter, Ashley, who was about to be sold. She packed a few things in a bag for her, and many years later, Ashley’s granddaughter, Ruth, embroidered this part of their family history on the bag. Miles, a historian, traces these women across archives, art, objects, and the environment to write about slavery in the U.S., including the uncertain end of it.

Code Dependent by Madhumita Murgia

'Code Dependent: Living in the Shadow of AI' by Madhumita Murgia book cover showing a video game-like scene with people wandering around buildinga, cars, etc.

A British poet, an exiled Chinese activist, an UberEats employee from Pittsburgh, and an Indian doctor all have one thing in common: unexpected AI encounters. We know about ChatGPT and social media, but AI also influences our everyday lives, even down to human rights. By using ordinary people, Murgia shows how AI impacts individuals, communities, and society as a whole, and all the negative effects we are already seeing.

How to Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair

'How to Say Babylon: A Memoir' by Safiya Sinclair book cover showing someone holding scissors to hair.

Sinclair’s father was obsessed with his daughters’ purity, including Sinclair’s own, particularly with what he called Babylon, the corrupting Western influences that existed outside of their home. To keep them pure and Babylon out, he forbade everything from pants to jewelry to opinions. But her mother gave her and her sisters books, which Sinclair used as a way to rebel. This book is her way of coming to terms with the culture that tried to silence her, with patriarchy, with colonialism in Jamaica, her home country. It’s a story of how she found her power.

The winner won’t be announced until June 13, but that’s plenty of time to enjoy these wonderful books!

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