Our warmest congratulations to Diana McCaulay (Jamaica) and Cecil Browne (United Kingdom/St. Vincent and the Grenadines) who were selected as winners of the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for their respective regions. The 2022 overall winner will be announced in an online ceremony at 1:00pm, Tuesday, June 21, and at a special event as part of the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Kigali, Rwanda.
Diana McCaulay (Jamaica) is the winner for the CARIBBEAN with her story “Bridge Over the Yallahs River”—a story about the impacts of short-term construction work by overseas crews on community life in Jamaica, illustrated by the wrenching choices a father must make between his ability to earn and his daughter’s health.
Kevin Jared Hosein (judge, Caribbean region) wrote: “’Bridge Over the Yallahs River’ is the story of a storm-struck bridge and the various people tasked to re-build it. It transports the reader to the small riverside village of Back To. Modern political powers have kept it in a sort of post-colonial Sisyphean stasis. The new bridge seems to be the catalyst for something hopeful. Long-needed repair. As the bridge progresses, the residents and the Chinese construction workers form an unconventional symbiotic bond – only for their actions at the end to announce that more than a physical bridge had been broken. A tale of simultaneous triumph and botchery; loss and reclamation; comedy and tragedy.”
Diana McCaulay is a Jamaican environmental activist and writer. She has written five novels – Dog-Heart, Huracan (Peepal Tree Press), Gone to Drift (Papillote Press and HarperCollins), White Liver Gal (self-published) and Daylight Come (Peepal Tree Press). She was the Caribbean regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2012, for ‘The Dolphin Catchers’. She is also on the editorial board of Pree, an online magazine for Caribbean writing.
Diana McCaulay said, “What an absolute thrill to learn that my story, ‘Bridge over the Yallahs River’, has won the regional prize for the Caribbean in the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story prize. I wanted to write about the conflict I saw so frequently during my environmental life – the heavy costs of what we call ‘development’, who pays those costs, the painful choices people must make between their livelihoods and their lives and the many ways in which they fight back.”
Cecil Browne (United Kingdom / St Vincent and the Grenadines) is the winner for CANADA AND EUROPE with his story “A Hat for Lemer”—The story of a woman who is faced with a dilemma after Emancipation. When estate owner Noah Brisbane implores her to find a missing Methodist minister new to the island, she has to decide whether to accept the task. The fee could build a house for herself and one for her parents, but can she ignore who Brisbane is and what he represents?
Stephanos Stephanides (judge, Canada and Europe) wrote: “A striking and original story set in mid-19th century post-Emancipation St. Vincent. The spunky narrator’s voice speaks with verve in the island’s vernacular and is the driving force that carries the narrative. As a child of runaway slaves, the protagonist grew up in the island’s difficult and volcanic hinterland and knows how to navigate the lay of the land and the diversity of the people who inhabit it: Whites, Blacks, Mulattos, Caribs. One day, an estate owner unexpectedly arrives at her mountain shack, where she makes a living as an herbalist, to hire her services to find a missing ‘school inspector’ who came from England. Her search for the mysterious ‘school inspector’ takes us on a journey that surprises at every turn; the mystery unfolds as Lemer takes us along her quest from school to brothel, through trade depots and Estates, encountering drunken sailors whose red lips are repellent even to flies, courtesans with breasts like firm sweet mangoes, stable boys and Carib boatmen. In the compressed space of a short story, we are left with a visceral understanding of a culture at a crucial point of social and historical transition, seen through the vision and voice of an empathetic protagonist coming into her own.”
Cecil Browne was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines but has lived in the UK since his teens. A college lecturer in Maths for over 35 years, he loves cricket, writing and music. His short story, ‘Coming Off the Long Run’ was published in the So Many Islands anthology in 2018. He has just finished writing his debut novel.
Cecil Browne said, “Discovering that I was the regional winner filled me with a private joy, but this quickly turned into the kind of joy I experience when the family is together for some function, all three generations, along with our close friends. ‘A Hat for Lemer’ portrays early Vincentian society, and the dilemma Lemer faces as she seeks to define a role for herself within that society. The story is dear to me. Within it are people with energy and drive, optimists negotiating a world both restricting and modern.”
For more information on all winners, see https://www.commonwealthwriters.org/shortstoryprize/regional-winners/