Cover image of Douglas Stuart's "Shuggie Bain" novel released by Grove. (Image: Grove via AP)
The Booker Prize 2020 was awarded to Scottish writer Douglas Stuart for Shuggie Bain, a novel about a boy’s turbulent coming of age in 1980s Glasgow. The novel was turned down by 32 publishers before being picked.
Stuart, 44, won the prestigious $66,000 award for his first published novel, the product of a decade of work. He was the only United Kingdom-born author on a United States-dominated list of six finalists for the prize.
"Laying bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride, Shuggie Bain is a blistering and heartbreaking debut, and an exploration of the unsinkable love that only children can have for their damaged parents," the judges said.
The prize, considered a leading literary award, has been awarded annually for over 50 years to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. It was previous known as the Man Booker Prize between 2002 and 2019 and the Booker–McConnell Prize between 1969 and 2001.
A former fashion designer who is based in New York, Stuart drew on his own experiences growing up gay in economically ravaged Margaret Thatcher-era Glasgow for the story of young Shuggie and his relationship with his alcoholic mother, Agnes.
Stuart dedicated the book to his mother, who died when he was 16. “My mother is in every page of this book, and without her I wouldn’t be here and my work wouldn’t be here,” Stuart said, declaring himself “absolutely stunned” to win.
Besides Stuart's Shuggie Bain, this year’s shortlists were: The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga, Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi, The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste and Real Life by Brandon Taylor.
The judging panel comprised Margaret Busby, Lee Child, Sameer Rahim, Lemn Sissay and Emily Wilson.
In 2019, the Booker Prize for Fiction was awarded to The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.(With inputs from the Associated Press)