Bernice L. McFadden speaks about being a Womens Prize for Fiction Longlistee

I am fascinated with women, women from all walks of life and ethnicities. I think women live the best stories and so tell the best stories. Of course, I myself am a woman, raised by women, who write stories that center women, so that might make me a bit bias in my thinking.

But from the beginning, it was the stories penned by women that I devoured when I was first learning to construct stories of my own and then women again, who offered support and guidance when I struck out on my literary journey. And then women once again, who threw me an emotional lifeline and moored me when my career was floundering and set adrift.

When I first learned about the practice of Trokosi - a crime against girls veiled in the smoke and mirrors of religious doctrine – first, I was appalled and then I got mad. It was that emotional response that drove me to write Praise Song for the Butterflies, in hopes that the book would shine a national spotlight on the ghastly tradition.

Jacaranda Books acquired my 2016 novel, The Book of Harlan, which went on to win an American Book Award and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction. I was impressed with how Jacaranda handled the UK rollout for The Book of Harlan, which was effectively my first introduction to readers on the other side of the pond. Incidentally, the paperback edition of The Book of Harlan is scheduled to be released in June of 2021.

So, when Jacaranda Books expressed interest in publishing the PSB, I was thrilled yet again to have one of my novels represented in the UK by such an auspicious and well-respected publisher. The acquisition meant that my story about Abeo Tsikata’s experience as a sex slave in a religious shrine would garner international attention, which might possibly foster change.

I had no idea that Jacaranda Books had submitted PSB for the prestigious Women’s Prize, so when I received the call that PSB had long-listed, I was pleasantly surprised and simultaneously humbled.

I’m thrilled about the upcoming release of the paperback edition of PSB. This means that Abeo’s story will continue to persist and maybe one day during our lifetime all of the Abeo’s of the world will be liberated and allowed to live as carefree as the butterflies.

– Bernice L. McFadden