More Than A Literary Festival

Debut novelist Tamika Gibson wins CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

CODE announced the winners of its third annual Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, which recognizes outstanding writing for young adults by Caribbean authors, at the 2016 NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Tamika Gibson
Tamika Gibson, photo © Marlon James

Tamika Gibson received the first prize of $10,000 CAD for her first novel, De First Family. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Ms. Gibson now lives in the US Virgin Islands. Florenz Webbe Maxwell of Bermuda won the second prize of $7000 CAD for Girlcott, and Danielle Y.C. McClean of Trinidad and Tobago, now based in Tennessee, took home the $5000 CAD third prize for The Protector’s Pledge.

The winners were selected by a jury administered by The Bocas Lit Fest and made up of writers, literacy experts and academics.

De First Family and Girlcott are unpublished manuscripts, and The Protector’s Pledge was self-published. CODE will facilitate the publication of all three novels by connecting the authors with Caribbean publishers, and will also purchase up to 6000 copies of the winning titles and donate them to schools, libraries and community organizations across the region.

“It is a great thrill to discover and recognize such fine literature for youth,” said CODE Executive Director Scott Walter. “Our job now is to ensure the novels end up in the hands of young readers throughout the Caribbean. High quality, culturally relevant books have long been known to help encourage the love and habit of reading, and these winning titles are sure to find an eager audience.”

“We are all winners – readers, writers, society, the book industry,” says Marina Salandy-Brown, founder and director of the Bocas Lit Fest, “our partnership with CODE is a high impact one, and it is now up to us in the region to do our part in nurturing the intelligent and passionate readers of the future, using these wonderful literary tools that have been put at our disposal. We are very grateful to CODE.”

The 2016 shortlist also included: The Demise of the Queen’s College Adventure Club by 2015 first-place winner Imam Baksh; The Truth Is by 2015 third-place winner Lynn Joseph, Trinidad & Tobago; and Barberry Hill by Carol Mitchell.

The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature was established by CODE—a Canadian charitable organization that has been advancing literacy and learning for 55 years—in collaboration with the Literary Prizes Foundation. CODE’s Burt Award is a global readership initiative that includes programs in the Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Canada.

To date, CODE has distributed 15,000 award-winning books to readers in eleven Caribbean countries. It further supports local writing and publishing through workshops for writers and editors and through reading promotion initiatives, such as sponsoring events that connect winning authors directly with young readers.

The 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature winners with CODE Board member Lynne Dean and Bocas Lit Fest founder and director Marina Salandy Brown. (L-R: Lynne Dean, Danielle Y.C. McClean, Tamika Gibson, Florenz Webbe Maxwell, Marina Salandy Brown)
At the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature Ceremony: (L to R) CODE Board member Lynne Dean, Danielle Y.C. McClean, Tamika Gibson, Florenz Webbe Maxwell, and Bocas Lit Fest Founder and Director Marina Salandy-Brown. 

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