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'God of Small Things' author Arundhati Roy will accept St. Louis Literary Award in spring

'God of Small Things' author Arundhati Roy will accept St. Louis Literary Award in spring


Known for her lush, descriptive prose style and nonfiction social commentary, Arundhati Roy will receive the 2022 St. Louis Literary Award.

She will accept the award April 28 at the Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries and talk about her work the following day at St. Louis University.

Roy is best-known for her novel “The God of Small Things,” which received the 1997 Booker Prize. Her novel “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” made the Booker’s long list in 2017 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

“First and foremost, Arundhati Roy is an exceptional writer whose work has made a profound impact culturally, socially and politically. What resonates through her writings as an essayist, novelist and screenwriter is a voice that is unwaveringly honest and compelling,” Edward Ibur, the award’s executive director, said in a statement Monday announcing the award.

“Ms. Roy has been a bright star in the literary universe for more than 30 years, and we are so fortunate to have her join our amazing roster of writers who have received the St. Louis Literary Award at SLU for more than 50 years.”

Roy follows another Booker nominee, Zadie Smith, who is to accept her own St. Louis honor on Nov. 4 at the Sheldon. The event is free, but reservations are required. Smith is known for the novels “White Teeth,” “On Beauty” and “Swing Time” and for nonfiction essays, such as last year’s “Intimations.” (Disclosure: This reporter is on the Literary Award committee that chose the winners.)

The St. Louis Literary Award has honored a writer in the English language since 1967, starting with Henry Steel Commager. Winners are a who’s who of some of the best writers of the last 100 years, including Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Chinua Achebe, N. Scott Momaday, Joyce Carol Oates, Salmon Rushdie and Stephen Sondheim. Given by the Library Associates of St. Louis University Libraries, the winner must agree to accept the award at a St. Louis event — although the 2020 winner, Michael Chabon, appeared via video because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The award “recognizes a living writer with a substantial body of work that has enriched our literary heritage by deepening our insight into the human condition and by expanding the scope of our compassion.” Honored works have included fiction, poetry, history, science, criticism and drama.

Roy was born in 1961 in India (Shillong, Meghalaya) and studied architecture in Delhi. She later wrote screenplays but gained worldwide fame with “The God of Small Things,” semi-autobiographical fiction about an Indian family with its own hardships and secrets. Since then, much of Roy’s writing has focused on social activism, including criticism of India’s nuclear policies and American imperialism and capitalism.

She has been honored with Lannan Foundation’s Prize for Cultural Freedom (2002); the Sydney Peace Prize (2004); the George Orwell Award from the National Council of Teachers of English (2004); and the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Writing (2011).

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