Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s The House of Rust Wins Inaugural Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction

On October 21, author Khadija Abdalla Bajaber received the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction for her debut novel, The House of Rust. Her book was on the short list announced this July; actor and author Anthony Rapp hosted a virtual event on Friday announcing the news.

The House of Rust centers around Aisha, a woman who travels with a talking cat and a boat made of bones to save her fisherman father. Jurors adrienne maree brown, Becky Chambers, Molly Gloss, David Mitchell, and Luis Alberto Urrea praised Bajaber’s writing in the official announcement:

Scene after scene is gleaming, textured, utterly devoid of cliché and arresting in its wisdom. The novel’s structure is audacious and its use of language is to die for.

The jurors also named two finalists for the prize: How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu, and The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente.

Bajaber gave a moving acceptance speech during the virtual ceremony (which you can view here after signing up for a Crowdcast account and clicking the “Save my spot!” button).

“The heart, craft, and humanity with which Ursula K. Le Guin approached the unfamiliar and the strange makes her one of the most beloved storytellers to readers and writers alike,” she said. “It is my honor to see The House of Rust, published by Graywolf Press, recognized now by this prize. I hope to use this prize to further my craft, to better myself as a person as well, and to investigate different ways of telling a story. And I hope that you will see more strange worlds from me, and more strange worlds from many different kinds of writers.”

The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction is an annual $25,000 cash award for a writer of a single book-length work of imaginative fiction. It is intended to recognize authors that Le Guin spoke of in her 2014 National Book Awards speech—realists of a larger reality, who can imagine real grounds for hope and see alternatives to how we live now.


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