The Rathbones Folio Prize 2021 Longlist

Just Us – Claudia Rankine (Allen Lane)

In this stunning finale to her American Lyric trilogy, Claudia Rankine shapes real encounters with strangers and friends into a study of whiteness, of American disunity, and of what it takes to stay in the room together. Claudia Rankine is the author of five books, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric and the bestselling Citizen: An American Lyric. A chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she is the winner of many prizes including the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and a 2016 MacArthur Fellowship. She is an adjunct professor of English and African-American Studies at Yale University, and has previously taught at Pomona College and the University of Southern California.

Indelicacy – Amina Cain (Daunt Books)

A ghostly feminist fable about class, desire, friendship, and the battle to find one’s true calling. Amina Cain’s Indelicacy was an Editor’s Choice at the New York Times and a New York Public Library Best Book of the Year. She is the author of two collections of stories: Creature and I Go To Some Hollow, and her fiction and essays have appeared in publications such as Granta, BOMB, n+1, and The Paris Review Daily. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, writer Amarnath Ravva, where she is finishing work on a book about the space of reading and writing fiction, tentatively entitled A Horse at Night.

The Appointment – Katharina Volckmer (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

In a well-appointed examination in London, a young woman unburdens herself to a certain Dr Seligman, to whom she holds forth about her life and desires, her struggles with her sexuality and identity. Katharina Volckmer was born in Germany in 1987. She lives in London, where she works for a literary agency. The Appointment is her first novel.

As You Were – Elaine Feeney (Harvill Secker)

One of the most buzzed-about Irish debuts of 2020: a novel for our times. Elaine Feeney has published three collections of poetry, Where’s Katie?, The Radio was Gospel, Rise, and a drama piece, WRoNGHEADED, commissioned by Liz Roche Company. She teaches at The National University of Ireland, Galway and St Jarlath’s College. Her work has been widely published and anthologised in Poetry Review, The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, Copper Nickel, Stonecutter Journal and others. As You Were is her fiction debut.

The Geez – Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Peepal Tree Press)

Simultaneously conceptual and deeply personal, The Geez is an intimate exploration of human perception and the way the body responds to, and expresses emotion. Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a Ghanaian-British writer and editor who has won acclaim as a children’s author, poet, broadcaster and novelist. Winner of multiple international awards including the ACRAG award, his novel Tail of the Blue Bird won France’s two major prizes for translated fiction – Prix Baudelaire and Prix Laure Bataillon – in 2014. Nii Ayikwei is the founder of flipped eye publishing, a leading small press, serves on the boards of World Literature Today and the AKO Caine Prize, and was chair of judges for the 2020 Commonwealth Prize. Currently Producer of Literature and Talks at Brighton Festival, he is the author of two collections of poetry The Makings of You (2010) and The Geez (2020), both published by Peepal Tree Press.

The Mermaid of Black Conch – Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press)

A tale of love against the odds, a feminist revision of an old Taino myth, an adventure story set in a small coastal Caribbean village. Monique Roffey is an award-winning Trinidadian born British writer of novels, essays and a memoir.  Her most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch, (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Novel Award, 2020 and was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths prize, 2020. Her other novels, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle and House of Ashes have been nominated for major awards. Archipelago won the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in 2013. She is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and a tutor for the National Writers Centre.

Poor – Caleb Femi (Penguin)

Lyrical, heart-breaking and hopeful, the Peckham poet’s debut collection celebrating the lives of young black boys and the architecture that shapes them. Caleb Femi is a poet and director featured in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture. He has written and directed short films commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4 and poems by the Tate Modern, The Royal Society for Literature, St Paul’s Cathedral, the BBC, the Guardian and many more. Between 2016-2018, Caleb was the Young People’s Laureate for London. He wrote the liner material for Kano’s 2019 album, ‘Hoodies All Summer’ and was the face of the 2019 Mulberry Christmas advert. Poor is his first book.

OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea – Patrick Freyne (Penguin Ireland)

Patrick Freyne has tried a lot of stupid ideas in his life. Now, he is here to tell you about them. OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea is a joyous reading experience from an instantly essential new writer. Patrick Freyne spent most of his twenties trying to be a rock star before turning to the much more stable and secure world of journalism. He is a features writer at the Irish Times. OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea is his first book.

The Actual – Inua Ellams (Penned In The Margins)

The Actual is a symphony of personal and political fury, described by Bernardine Evaristo ‘as fire, as lament, as beauty’. Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a UK-based poet, playwright and performer who has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the BBC. His latest play was an adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters set in Nigeria, staged at the National Theatre. The Actual is Ellams’ fifth poetry release, and first full collection, after Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales (flipped eye, 2005), Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars (flipped eye, 2011), The Wire-Headed Heathen (Akashic Books, 2016) and The Half God of Rainfall (Fourth Estate, 2019).

Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (Picador)

A heart-wrenchingly moving first novel set in Glasgow during the Thatcher years, Shuggie Bain tells the story of a boy’s doomed attempt to save his proud, alcoholic mother from her addiction. Douglas Stuart was born and raised in Glasgow. After graduating from the Royal College of Art, he moved to New York, where he began a career in design. Shuggie Bain is his debut novel. It won the 2020 Booker Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, the Kirkus Prize and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. His short stories have appeared in the New Yorker and his essay on ‘Gender, Anxiety and Class’ was published by Lit Hub. Shuggie Bain is to be published in over 30 territories (and counting) and a tv adaptation is being made by A24 and Scott Rudin Productions; Douglas is currently writing the screenplay. Loch Awe, the second novel by Douglas Stuart, will be published by Picador in 2022.

My Darling from the Lions – Rachel Long (Picador)

Each poem in Rachel Long’s critically acclaimed debut collection, My Darling from the Lions, has a vivid story to tell – of family quirks, the perils of dating, the grip of religion or sexual awakening – stories that are emotionally insightful, politically conscious, wise, funny and outrageous. Long is a razor-sharp and original voice and here is an immediate, wide-awake poetry that entertains with urgency and remarkable skill. Rachel Long is a Costa Prize shortlisted poet and founder of Octavia Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour, which is housed at Southbank Centre, in London. Rachel’s poetry and prose have been published widely, most recently in Filigree, Mal and the White Review. She is Assistant Tutor to Jacob Sam-La Rose on the Barbican Young Poets programme, 2015-present.

English Pastoral – James Rebanks (Allen Lane)

The moving story of how, in just three generations, an ancient way of life was lost – as witnessed from the field of a small Lake District farm. James Rebanks is a farmer based in the Lake District, where his family have lived and worked for over six hundred years. His No.1 bestselling debut, The Shepherd’s Life, won the Lake District Book of the Year, was shortlisted for the Wainwright and Ondaatje prizes, and has been translated into sixteen languages.

The Pink Line: The World’s Queer Frontiers – Mark Gevisser (Profile Books)

Eye-opening, moving, and crafted with expert research, this is a vital journey of epic scope, across the world’s most challenging new frontiers. Mark Gevisser’s previous books include the award-winning A Legacy of Liberation: Thabo Mbeki and the Future of South Africa’s Dream, and Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir. He writes frequently for Guardian, The New York Times, Granta, and many other publications. He helped organise South Africa’s first Pride March in 1990, and has worked on queer themes ever since, as a journalist, film-maker and curator. He lives in Cape Town.

In the Dream House: A Memoir – Carmen Maria Machado (Serpent’s Tail)

A revolutionary memoir about domestic abuse by the prizewinning author of Her Body and Other Parties. Carmen Maria Machado is the author of the bestselling memoir In the Dream House and the award-winning short story collection Her Body and Other Parties. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize among others. Her essays, fiction, and criticism have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Granta, Vogue, This American Life, Harper’s Bazaar, Tin House, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Guernica, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Guggenheim Foundation, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She lives in Philadelphia and is the Abrams Artist-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania.

Strangers – Rebecca Tamás (Makina Books)

In Strangers, Rebecca Tamás explores where the human and nonhuman meet, and why this delicate connection just might be the most important relationship of our times.

Rebecca Tamás’ poetry and criticism has been published widely. She is the co-editor of Spells: Occult Poetry for the 21st Century, with Sarah Shin, published by Ignota Books and her first poetry collection, WITCH was published by Penned in the Margins in 2019; to praise from the Poetry Book Society, the Guardian, Telegraph, Irish Times, TLS, The White Review and The Paris Review. Rebecca is a lecturer in Creative Writing at York St John University, where she co-curates The York Centre for Writing Poetry Series. She is represented by Emma Paterson, at Aitken and Alexander.

RENDANG – Will Harris (Granta)

A rising star of contemporary British poetry reflects on race, culture, memory and identity in his first full-length collection.

Will Harris is a writer of Chinese Indonesian and British heritage, born and based in London. His debut poetry book RENDANG is published by Granta in the UK and Wesleyan University Press in the US. It was a Poetry Book Society Choice and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2020.

Entangled Life – Merlin Sheldrake (The Bodley Head)

Entangled Life is a mind-altering journey into a spectacular and neglected world which shows that fungi provide a key to understanding both the planet on which we live and life itself. Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and a writer. He received a Ph.D. in Tropical Ecology from Cambridge University for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama, where he was a predoctoral research fellow of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He is a musician and keen fermenter. Entangled Life is his first book.

handiwork – Sara Baume (Tramp Press)

handiwork is a contemplative short narrative from acclaimed writer and visual artist Sara Baume. It offers observations at once gentle and devastating, on the nature of art, grief and a life lived well. Sara Baume’s work first appeared in newspapers and journals such as the Irish Times, the Guardian, The Stinging Fly and Granta. She won the 2014 Davy Byrnes Short Story Award for ‘SoleSearcher1’, and went on to receive the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, the Rooney Prize for Literature and an Irish Book Award for Best Newcomer in 2015. Her debut novel Spill Simmer Falter Wither was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the Warwick Prize for Writing, the Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction and the International Dublin Literary Award. It was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. In autumn 2015, she was a participant in the International Writing Program run by the University of Iowa and received a Literary Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A Ghost in the Throat – Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Tramp Press)

A devastating and timeless tale about finding your voice by freeing another’s. Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a poet and essayist. Her most recent book is the bestseller A Ghost in the Throat, which finds the eighteenth-century poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill haunting the life of a contemporary young mother, prompting her to turn detective. Doireann is also author of six critically-acclaimed books of poetry, each a deepening exploration of birth, death, desire, and domesticity.

How Much of These Hills is Gold – C Pam Zhang (Virago)

A novel about the making of America, through the eyes of two siblings fighting to survive during Gold Rush. Born in Beijing but mostly an artifact of the United States, C Pam Zhang has lived in thirteen cities and is still looking for home. She’s been awarded fellowships and scholarships from organisations including Bread Loaf, Tin House and Aspen Words. Her work appears in Kenyon Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Tin House and elsewhere.

The Rathbones Folio Prize 2021 Judges


The T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet Roger Robinson, the Irish writer, editor and broadcaster Sinéad Gleeson and novelist and short story writer Jon McGregor.

Roger Robinson, chair won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2019 and RSL Ondaatje Prize in 2020 and is currently on the shortlist for the Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry. He has performed all over the world and was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the Black-British writing can- on. His latest collection‘A Portable Paradise’ was a ‘New Statesman’ Book of the Year. As well as leading workshops and touring extensively with the British Council he is lead vocalist and lyricist for King Midas Sound and has recorded solo albums.

Sinead Gleeson was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2020 with Constellations: Reflections from Life which won the Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards and the 2020 Dalkey Literary Award. Her short stories have appeared in a number of collections and she is the editor of four anthologies of short stories, most recently published The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories. She is now working on a novel.

Jon McGregor is the author of four novels and a story collection and has been shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2018. He has been longlisted for the Booker prize three times and his books have won a Betty Trask Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award and the International Dublin Literary Award. He was named 2002 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 2002 and in 2010, received an honorary doctorate from the University of Nottingham. His new book, Lean Fall Stand, will be published in 2021.


The Rathbones Folio Prize 2021 Prize Timeline


Shortlist Announcement

On 10 February the Rathbones Folio Prize 2021 shortlist will be announced.

Winner Announcement

On 24 Match the winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize 2021 will be announced. The ceremony and events will take place in a physical and digital hybrid form. More details will be released soon.

‘Books That Helped Us Through This Year’ series


Reading recommendation from Folio Academy members.

Dystopian Fiction Event – Novels of the Future

Watch the riveting literary conversation with best-selling authors Kamila Shamsie and John Lanchester on writing dystopian fiction. BBC news and former arts correspondent Razia Iqbal hosted the event, talking to John and Kamila on how COVID-19 might change the narrative of future novels and how their work reflects the society we live in today. Click here to watch the event.

Marie Curie 'Carols in the City at home' Event

Sponsored by Rathbones, Marie Curie held its first virtual carol concert for Marie Curie hospice care, ‘Carols in the City at home’. For this special event, Rathbones Folio Prize Administrator, Asima Qayyum, wrote a festive poem, ‘Pakistani Praise Song for an English Christmas’. Watch the full concert here to listen to readings from stars of stage and screen Rosamund Pike, Imelda Staunton, Hugh Bonneville and Pippa Bennett Warner along with host Jim Carter OBE.

Raymond Antrobus Awarded An MBE

Rathbones Folio Prize 2019 winner and current mentorship mentor, Raymond Antrobus, has been awarded an MBE for services to literature in the New Year’s Honours list! Raymond said his work aims to work against the stigmatisation of people living with disabilities: “As a mixed race Black, hard of hearing kid from Hackney, who came out of state run ‘special educational needs units’, I hope the narrative that is promoted with my acceptance of an MBE for my contribution to English language literature offers inspiration and a call to action.” (Hackney Gazette).

The Rathbones Folio Prize 2021 Mentors


Raymond Antrobus, Kathryn Marris, Paul Farley and Rachel Long confirmed as mentors for the 2021 Rathbones Folio Mentorship programme.

Raymond Antrobus, winner of the 2019 Rathbones Folio Prize and the Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year among other prizes, for his debut collection The Perseverance. Kathryn Maris is a creative writing teacher and a poet. She is the recipient of several awards, including an Academy of American Poets Award, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Yaddo. The multi award-winning poet and non-fiction writer Paul Farley, who chaired the judges of this year’s Rathbones Folio Prize. Leader of the Octavia Poetry Collective for Women of Colour, Rachel Long, author of the widely acclaimed My Darling from the Lions, shortlisted for the 2020 Forward Prize for Best First Collection. The scheme pairs four outstanding students from disadvantaged backgrounds with four mentors, who are members of The Folio Academy, for one-to-one creative writing tutoring over the course of a year. Read the full press release here.

A Bright Future for the Rathbones Folio Prize


We’re delighted to announce an expanded partnership with our sponsors Rathbones Investment Management, which secures the future of the Prize, Mentorships and Sessions until at least 2023. The renewed and significantly increased sponsorship by Rathbones not only enables us to step up our charitable objectives, it also means that the value of the Prize has increased, with this year’s winner set to receive a cheque for £30,000.

Rathbones Folio Prize Timeline 2021

See details of the 2021 Prize timeline and all the information surrounding it here.

About The Academy

The character and qualities of the prize are shaped by The Folio Prize Academy, an international group of people, primarily writers and critics, who are immersed in the world of books. The Academy will play a decisive role in selecting titles to be considered for the shortlist, and each year…

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