Wales Arts Review is delighted to be sponsoring and hosting the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award once again – where you, the public, get to have your say and vote for your favourite. To help you decide, we’re taking a closer look at the titles in each of the four categories. Next up, it’s the books shortlisted in the Creative Non-Fiction category.
And: A Memoir of My Mother by Isabel Adonis
Isabel Adonis was born in London in 1951, to Welshwoman Catherine Alice Hughes, and renowned Guyanese artist Denis Williams, whose work has been exhibited in the Tate Gallery. Growing up in London, Sudan and Wales, with a cold and distant father and an isolated mother, Adonis explores the nature of identity, culture and desire as shaped by her childhood impressions of her parents. Simultaneously personal and universal, and told in the rhythms of an oral story, this beautifully musical and multi-layered book examines the divisiveness of colour, alienation, the impact of colonialism on social culture, and what it means to be ‘mixed’. An essential read that portrays an important aspect of the culturally diverse social fabric of Wales and the wider world.
The Author – Autobiography
My mother was a white Welsh woman and my father was a black man from Georgetown in Guyana. He was quite a well-known writer and artist. I was born and brought up in London until I was six when my father began working in Khartoum in Sudan. I lived and went to school there until I was nine when my parents bought a house in Wales. For the next nine years I lived and went to school in Wales and travelled to Africa in the holidays. After five years in Sudan my father worked in different universities in Nigeria. My parents split up when I was seventeen and my father returned to the Caribbean. My mother did not remarry.
I am a mother, a writer and an artist. I have been published in the New Wales Review, Urban Welsh, Just So You Know and the Journal of Caribbean Literature. I was the winner of the Best Article 2002 in Impact magazine. I have four grown up children.
Original Sins by Matt Rowland-Hill
Matt Rowland-Hill grew up the son of a minister in an evangelical Christian church in south Wales and then south-east England. It was a childhood fraught with bitter family conflict and the fear of damnation.
After a devastating loss of faith in his late teens, Matt began his search for salvation elsewhere, turning to books before developing a growing relationship with alcohol and drugs. He became addicted to crack and heroin in his early twenties, an ordeal that stretched over a decade and culminated in a period of hopeless darkness.
Recklessly honest, and as funny as it is grave, Original Sins is an extraordinary memoir of faith, family, shame and addiction. But ultimately it is about looking for answers to life’s big questions in all the wrong places, how hope can arrive in the most unexpected forms, and how the stories we tell might help us survive.
Matt Rowland Hill was born in 1984 in Pontypridd, south Wales, and grew up in Wales and England. He now lives in London, and Original Sins is his first book.
The Sound of Being Human by Jude Rogers
The Sound of Being Human explores, in detail, why music plays such a deep-rooted role in so many lives, from before we are born to our last days. At its heart is Jude’s own story: how songs helped her wrestle with the grief of losing her father at age five; concoct her own sense of self as a lonely adolescent; sky-rocket her relationships, both real and imagined, in the flushes of early womanhood, propel her own journey into working life, adulthood and parenthood, and look to the future.
Shaped around twelve songs, ranging from ABBA’s ‘Super Trouper’ to Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’, Kraftwerk’s ‘Radioactivity’ to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ ‘Heat Wave’, the book combines memoir and historical, scientific and cultural enquiry to show how music can shape different versions of ourselves; how we rely upon music for comfort, for epiphanies, and for sexual and physical connection; how we grow with songs, and songs grow inside us, helping us come to terms with grief, getting older and powerful memories. It is about music’s power to help us tell our own stories, whatever they are, and make them sing.
A Swansea-born arts journalist and writer now living near Abergavenny, Jude Rogers’ debut takes the reader from her childhood around the Loughor Estuary to motherhood and mid-life in Monmouthshire. Starting her journalism career at the Llanelli Star as a teenager, she has written about arts and culture for The Guardian, Observer, Sunday Times, New Statesman and many women’s magazines since her mid-twenties, and made many acclaimed documentaries for Radio 4, including the 2021 series ‘A Life in Music’.
You can view the full shortlist for this year’s prize, and cast your vote for this year’s People’s Choice Award, here.
You can find out more about this year’s Wales Book of the Year Awards, here.