Booker Prize 2020: Douglas Stuart Wins for ‘Shuggie Bain’

The novel, which has drawn comparisons to DH Lawrence, James Joyce, and Frank McCourt, was a popular contender for this year’s top literary awards. In addition to being a Booker finalist, Stuart was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction, which went to Charles Yu for Interior Chinatown on Wednesday.

Stuart, 44, who has dual Scottish and American citizenship, lives in the East Village with his husband, Michael Cary, a Picasso-specialist curator at Gagosian. Stuart started writing a little late and spent nearly 20 years in the fashion industry as a designer for Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic and Jack Spade. He started writing Shuggie Bain more than a decade ago while serving 12-hour days as the Senior Director of Design at Banana Republic.

Stuart was one of four debut novelists on this year’s shortlist. The others were Brandon Taylor for “Real Life,” following a black gay graduate student who navigates white campus culture; Diane Cook for her dystopian novel “The New Wilderness” about a mother and daughter who left a polluted city for the last part of the wilderness; and Avni Doshi for “Burnt Sugar” about an artist in Pune, India whose mother left her to join an ashram.

The two established authors on the shortlist were Maaza Mengiste for her novel “The Shadow King”, which is set during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in the 1930s, and Tsitsi Dangarembga for “This Mournable Body,” which focuses on a middle-aged woman Life in Harare.

Last year the Booker judges made the surprising decision to disobey their own rules and jointly award the award to Margaret Atwood for “The Testaments,” a sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and Bernardine Evaristo for her Novel “girl, woman, other.” She was the first black woman to win the Booker Prize.

This year the judges were able to reach a unanimous consensus. These included the thriller writer Lee Child, the poet Lemn Sissay, the classic and translator Emily Wilson, and the British writer and critic Sameer Rahim.

This year’s ceremony included a star-studded series of guest speakers. Former President Barack Obama, whose memoir was released this week and caused Booker to postpone his ceremony, spoke about some of his favorite Booker-recognized novels and the comfort he finds in reading fiction. The Duchess of Cornwall described how reading can help people feel connected during the pandemic. Past winners including Kazuo Ishiguro, Atwood, and Evaristo also spoke.

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