The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is an annual Award that will be given to three English-language literary works for young adults (aged 12 through 18) written by Caribbean authors. Established by CODE – a Canadian charitable organization that has been supporting literacy and learning for over 50 years – with the generous support of the Literary Prizes Foundation and in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest, the Award aims to provide engaging and culturally-relevant books for young people across the Caribbean.
The intent of the prize is to champion literacy, build language skills and foster the love and habit of reading amongst youth and young adults.
Up to three prizes will be awarded each year to the authors of the winning titles: a First Prize of $10,000 CAD, a Second Prize of $7,000 CAD and a Third Prize of $5,000 CAD. Publishers of winning titles will be awarded a guaranteed purchase of up to 2,000 copies (only publishers registered and operating in the Caribbean are eligible). Copies purchased by the program are donated to select libraries, schools and literacy organizations for distribution throughout the region.
Tamika Gibson received the first prize of $10,000 CAD for her first novel, De First Family. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, 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.
De First Family and Girlcott are unpublished manuscripts, and The Protector’s Pledge was self-published.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.
The 2016 shortlisted titles, selected from among 60 submissions of published books and unpublished manuscripts, are:
The 2016 judging panel included Alscess Lewis-Brown (Head Juror), Tracey Baptiste and Daniel Jose Older.
Alscess Lewis-Brown (Chief Judge) is an educator and children’s author from the US Virgin Islands. She is editor-in-chief of The Caribbean Writer, an international literary journal with a Caribbean focus published annually by the University of the Virgin Islands. She has over twenty-five years experience as an adjunct English instructor at the University of the Virgin Islands. She has taught courses in Caribbean Literature, Black American Literature, World Literature, Introduction to the Humanities and English Composition. She has presented academic papers in the area of literature and culture. She has written six books for young readers, including the popular Moko Jumbi Majorette series (published by Little Bell/Campanita Books).
Tracey Baptiste was born in Trinidad. Her debut, a critically-acclaimed Young Adult novel titled Angel’s Grace (Simon & Schuster, 2005) was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by New York City librarians. Her second novel, The Jumbies (Algonquin, 2014), mixes a Haitian folktale with creatures from Trinidadian lore into a high-adventure fairy tale. It was featured in the April 2015 edition of Essence magazine. Tracey has also written several nonfiction books for middle-grade readers, including biographies of some of her favourite authors.
Daniel José Older is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and composer. He is the author of the Bone Street Rumba novels, including Half-Resurrection Blues; the ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna; and the Young Adult novel SHADOWSHAPER (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015, nominated for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature). He also co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and his short stories and essays have appeared in Tor.com, Salon, BuzzFeed, Gawker, New Haven Review, PANK, and Strange Horizons. His band Ghost Star gigs regularly around New York and he facilitates workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.