Three Caribbean writers shortlisted for 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

There are three woman writers, from The Bahamas and Jamaica, vying for the Regional Prize for the Caribbean in the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The shortlist, announced on April 25, includes two previous winners, Jamaican Diana McCaulay (2012) – who has just completed her sixth novel, stay tuned! – and the Bahamas’ Alexia Tolas (2019). Another Jamaican, Sharma Taylor, is shortlisted for the fourth time. Two Caribbean writers living in the UK, J.S. Gomes (Trinidad & Tobago) and Cecil Browne (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) are also on the Canada and Europe shortlist. The selection was made from 6,730 entries from 52 Commonwealth countries.

Author Roland Watson-Grant, the regional winner for the Caribbean in 2021, speaks at an Independence literary event in Kingston a few years ago. (My photo)

The Caribbean winner of the 2021 prize was Jamaican novelist, screenwriter and travel writer Roland Watson-Grant, for his poignant story “The Disappearance of Mumma Dell.” I interviewed Roland last year for Global Voices you can read it here.

Here is some more about the Caribbean writers shortlisted this year:

Sharma Taylor (Photo: Amleya Clarke)

Sharma Taylor has won the Bocas Lit Fest’s Johnson and Amoy Aching Writers’ Prize, the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award and the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. She has been shortlisted four times for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022). Her 2018 shortlisted story “Son Son’s Birthday” became her debut novel, “What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You,” to be published in July 2022 in the UK by Virago. Sharma’s story “Have Mercy” is about a single mother, Esmé, who not only has to deal with the strained relationship with her young daughter’s father, but also the constantly crying baby next door…

Diana McCaulay (Photo: Jeremy Francis)

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/HarperCollins) – read my review here; “White Liver Gal” (self-published); and “Daylight Come” (Peepal Tree Press – read my review here). 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’s story “Bridge over the Yallahs River” is 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.

Alexia Tolas (Photo:

Alexia Tolas is a Bahamian writer whose stories explore small-island life and local mythology to convey realities silenced by tradition and trauma. Her writing has been featured in Womanspeak, Grants, Windrush, adda, and The Caribbean Writer. In 2019, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Caribbean region and was shortlisted for the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. She is working on her first novel. Alexia’s story “No Man’s Land” describes a desperate hotel developer, who journeys into the forest to reclaim his paradise, and discovers that he may not be the predator, but the prey. Told partially in resurrected Taíno, the story asks – “What if nature could fight back?”

The Commonwealth Foundation, which administers the prize, reported:

Twenty-six outstanding stories have been shortlisted by an international judging panel for the worlds most global literature prize. The writers come from 20 countries across the Commonwealth…The 26 shortlisted entries range from forbidden love to coming-of-age stories, tackling subjects from bereavement to climate change, and span genres from speculative and literary fiction to romance and crime.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from any of the Commonwealth’s 54 Member States. It is the most accessible and international of all writing competitions: in addition to English, entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish. Such linguistic diversity in a short story prize in part reflects the richness of the Commonwealth, not least its many and varied literary traditions. In 2022, 408 entries were in languages other than English.

The shortlisted writers range in age from 23 to 75 and many have been nominated for the prize before… This year may be “their year.”

Chair of the Judges, Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar hailed a list of “memorable and urgent stories that captured the concerns of their respective communities” and noted that “these writers achieved all this while they displayed an astute sense of the many forms of the story and its many long traditions on a continuum, from oral to scribal, from performance to contemplation…The result is a shortlist of stories that is aware of history, while never sacrificing story. These stories are as diverse as the world that they are drawn from and care about: they reflect a complex and afflicted planet; they answer the call of today’s multiple societal tensions by acts of reading that transform how the reader views that world.”

Dr. Anne T. Gallagher AO, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation, the intergovernmental organisation which administers the prize, commended all those who entered the competition, offering a “special congratulations to those who have made the shortlist in what was a highly competitive year.” Dr. Gallagher added: “The growing popularity of the prize speaks to the vital role that storytelling plays for people and communities right across the Commonwealth. In these fragile and uncertain times, the Short Story Prize transmits a strong and timely message about the power of cultural expression, to help us make sense of ourselves and the world around us.”

The shortlisted stories will be published online on the Commonwealth Foundation’s magazine, addastories.org and the regional winners will be published in the literary magazine Granta.

Below is the 2022 shortlist in full. Some of the titles spark the imagination!

Each region will have its own prize of 2,500 GBP (to be announced on Monday, May 23) and there will be an overall winner announcement and award ceremony on Tuesday, June 21). The overall winner receives 5,000 GBP.

AFRICA

  • “and the earth drank deep” by Ntsika Kota (eSwatini)
  • “Lifestyle Guide for the Discerning Witch” by Franklyn Usouwa (Nigeria)
  • “Something Happened Here” by Dera Duru (Nigeria)
  • “How to Operate the New Eco-Protect Five-in-One Climate Control Apparatus” by Charlies Muhumuza (Uganda)
  • “Thandiwe” by Mubanga Kalimamukwento (Zambia)

ASIA

  • “A fast-growing refugee problem” by Sagnik Datta (India)
  • “Accidents are Prohibited” by Gitanjali Joshua (India)
  • “Fault Lines” by Pritika Rao (India)
  • “The Kite” by Sophia Khan (Pakistan)
  • “The Last Driver on Earth” by Sofia Mariah Ma (Singapore)

CANADA AND EUROPE

  • “The Stone Bench” by David McIlwraith (Canada)
  • “Losing Count” by Alexandra Manglis (Cyprus)
  • “A Landscape Memoir” by Jonathan Pizarro (Gibraltar)
  • “A Hat for Lemer” by Cecil Browne (United Kingdom/St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
  • “Hot Chutney Mango Sauce” by Farah Ahmed (United Kingdom/Kenya)
  • “Omolara” by J.S. Gomes (United Kingdom/Trinidad and Tobago)
  • “The Scars and the Stars” by P.R. Woods (United Kingdom)
  • “What Men Live By” by Shagufta Sharmeeen Tania, translated from Bangla by the author (United Kingdom/Bangladesh)

CARIBBEAN

  • “No Man’s Land” by Alexia Tolas (The Bahamas)
  • “Bridge over the Yallahs River” by Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)
  • “Have Mercy” by Sharma Taylor (Jamaica)

PACIFIC

  • “Slake” by Sarah Walker (Australia)
  • “The No Sex Thing” by Eleanor Kirk (Australia)
  • “The Nightwatch” by Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji)
  • “Speaking in tongues” by Shelley Burne-Field (New Zealand)
  • “Wonem Samting Kamap Long Mama?” (“What Happened to Ma?”) by Baka Bina, translated from Tok Pisin to English by the author (Papua New Guinea)
Future writers? Reading from a book about Nelson Mandela on Mandela Day at Trench Town Reading Centre. (My photo)

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