The Booker Prize was won by Glasgow-born author Douglas Stuart. Last night, for his novel Shuggie Bain, Stuart, who now lives in the United States, accepted the £ 50,000 prize.
Following James Kelman, who was the controversial winner in 1994 with his novel How Late It Was, How Late, he is just the second Scottish author to win the award.
Stuart thanked his publishers, his husband, and the people of Glasgow in his acceptance speech last night: “I know I am only the second Scottish book to win in fifty years, and I think that means a lot to regional voices, to working-class stories.”
“I want to thank the people of Scotland, especially the Glaswegians, whose humor, love and struggle is in every word.”
His late mother, who was “on every page” of the novel, also paid tribute.
“Shuggie is definitely a work of fiction, though I’m the gay son of a single mother who lost her battle with addiction.”Shuggie is definitely a work of fiction, while I am the gay son of a single mother who lost her battle with addiction.
The novel is the story of a young child, Shuggie, and Agnes, his alcoholic mother. It might be dismissed as bad porn from the outside, but it’s a book that is full of affection, compassion and an insight that comes from lived experience, while not withdrawing from the harsh reality of their difficult lives.
Leah Hager Cohen wrote in her New York Times review of the novel, “He shows us plenty of monstrous behavior, but not a single monster – only harm,” “If he has a keen eye for brokenness, he is even sharper for the inextinguishable flicker of love that remains.”
“To see a Scottish voice embraced in that way, especially in America – and a book written in a very broad Glaswegian dialect – was phenomenal,” Stuart said. “It was just so encouraging, and I’m really proud of it.”
Stuart, who was born in Sighthill and raised in Glasgow’s East End, grew up on welfare. “Working class is a stretch,” he told the publication, “because I never saw my single mother work.” From age seven to 14, he was bullied regularly, he says, because he was considered different. He was also the target of homophobic abuse.
Meanwhile, he lived with a mother who lived with addiction at home. “In my childhood, alcohol was always a factor, and even when my mother was in a period of sobriety, how long it would last and when it would pass was always unpredictable.” And so it was still the mountain you saw, whether you were on or just below the mountain.
When his mother died, Stuart was 16. But after her death, while taking care of himself, he dedicated himself to his education. ‘I had to work at the Texas Homebase four nights a week and all day Saturday and all day Sunday just to get through high school.’
He left Glasgow at the age of 18 to study textiles in Galashiels. Stuart then went to London’s Royal College of Art, where he landed a job at Calvin Klein in New York for his graduation show.
He’s been working in the fashion industry for the last two decades, but he has fulfilled a lifelong dream with Shuggie Bain: To be a novelist.
He is now a full-time journalist. He has written short stories for the New Yorker in addition to the book.
Read more: Douglas Stuart – Interview with The Magazine
He told the magazine in August about his plans for a second novel. “I’m essentially writing a love story separated along sectarian lines between two Glasgow boys, which I’m putting the final touches on.” It’s about toxic masculinity and what we want from young men and the narrow ways in which we’re bringing them into the world.
The win of Stuart represents a rare achievement at the Booker Prize for Scottish writers. While a number of Scots have been on the shortlist since the prize was introduced in 1969, including Muriel Spark, George Mackay Brown, Ali Smith and Andrew O’Hagan, only James Kelman has won it. The win of Kelman was controversial at the time, partially because of the use of the Glasgow idiom by the author, which involves widespread use of the Glasgow idiom
Kelman argued in response, “My culture and my language have the right to exist, and no one has the authority to take that right away.”
Book by Stuart