Indian author Avni Doshi is among the six authors shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize for her debut novel ‘Burnt Sugar’. The shortlist was unveiled virtually in London after judges re-evaluated the 13 long listed novels published between October 2019 and September 2020 to conclude a shortlist for the 50,000 pounds (approx 50 lakh rupees) literary prize in November. Burnt Sugar is published out of UK in some countries as The Girl in White Cotton.

“This utterly compelling read examines a complex and unusual mother-daughter relationship with honest, unflinching realism – sometimes emotionally wrenching but also cathartic, written with poignancy and memorability,” the judges said of Avni Doshi’s entry.

Here’s a glimpse into Avni Doshi’s book Burnt Sugar as state on the Booker website.

In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her loveless marriage to join an ashram, endured a brief stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents), and spent years chasing after a dishevelled, homeless ‘artist’ – all with her young child in tow. Now she is forgetting things, mixing up her maid’s wages and leaving the gas on all night, and her grown-up daughter is faced with the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her. This is a love story and it is a story about betrayal. But not between lovers – between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Avni Doshi tests the limits of what we can know for certain about those we are closest to, and by extension, about ourselves.

SheThePeople recently interviewed Avni Doshi, who was born in the US and is now living in Dubai. Doshi talked about her book, her experience as a woman writer, her pandemic reading list and the ultimate purpose of art. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Your book Burnt Sugar/Girl in White Cotton begins with an intriguing line, “I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure.” How and at what stage of writing did you decide that this would be the first line of your book?

The book was rewritten many times over the course of seven years, but the voice of narrator and this particular sentence came to me when I started writing the final draft. In a sense, you can say this sentence came to me at the very beginning, but in another way, it was at the end of a long journey.

You have a background in art history. Did that background help you while writing this novel? In what capacity?

My background in art history influences everything I do – it’s the way in which I see the world. The narrator in the novel is an artist, and her creative process is intertwined with how the story unfolds. Many of the major themes in the book, such as memory and amnesia, are ideas that I explored first in an art historical context, through visual art and philosophical texts, before bringing them into my fiction.

Read the entire interview here


Utterly compelling, complex, unflinching realism – sometimes emotionally wrenching but also cathartic, written with poignancy and memorability. – The Booker Prize Judges 2020

Booker prize 2020 shortlist, avni doshiThe rest of the Booker shortlist includes Diane Cook for “The New Wilderness”, Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga for the third novel in her trilogy – ‘This Mournable Body’, Maaza Mengiste for “The Shadow King”, Douglas Stuart for “Shuggie Bain” and Brandon Taylor for “Real Life”.

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