American novelist Barbara Kingsolver wins the Women’s Prize for Fiction
American author Barbara Kingsolver has won the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction for Demon Copperhead, her modern recasting of the Dickens classic David Copperfield. The prize was announced at a ceremony in Bedford Square Gardens, central London, on Wednesday (June 14).
The awards function was hosted by novelist and prize founder and director Kate Mosse. The 2023 chair of judges, Louise Minchin, presented the author with the £30,000 prize, endowed by an anonymous donor, alongside the Bessie — a limited-edition bronze figurine by Grizel Niven.
On June 8, Kingsolver became the first author to have jointly shared the Pulitzer Prize, which was awarded to two fiction books in the category’s 105-year history: the other was Hernan Diaz’s Trust, an innovative narrative of wealth and deceit, set in the New York of 1920s.
An expose of modern America
Kingsolver has become the first double winner of the prize in its 28-year history. The award celebrates and promotes fiction written by women. Her previous victory came in 2010 for The Lacuna.
“Barbara Kingsolver has written a towering, deeply powerful and significant book,” chair of judges, author and journalist Louise Minchin, said. “In a year of outstanding fiction by women, we made a unanimous decision on Demon Copperhead as our winner. Brilliant and visceral, it is storytelling by an author at the top of her game. We were all deeply moved by Demon, his gentle optimism, resilience and determination despite everything being set against him,” Minchin added.
“An exposé of modern America, its opioid crisis and the detrimental treatment of deprived and maligned communities, Demon Copperhead tackles universal themes – from addiction and poverty, to family, love, and the power of friendship and art – it packs a triumphant emotional punch, and it is a novel that will withstand the test of time,” he added.
Fiction for social change
Demon Copperhead, Kingsolver’s tenth novel, transports readers to the rugged Appalachian mountains of Virginia. It tells the story of the relentless struggles and triumphs of a young boy born into poverty as he navigates foster care, labour exploitation, addiction, love and loss, while grappling with his invisibility in a culture that neglects rural communities.
Kingsolver’s other widely known works include The Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. They showcase her focus on social justice, biodiversity, and the interaction between humans and their environments.
Each of Kingsolver’s books published since 1993 has made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. She has received numerous awards, including the Dayton Literary Peace Prize’s Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award in 2011 and the UK’s Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.
In 2000, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize to support literature that promotes social change.