Angie Cruz’s critically-acclaimed Dominicana has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary prizes. The award, which is in its 25th year, is given annually to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English and published in the preceding year.
Judges for the Women’s Prize made the announcement Tuesday. They chose the Dominican-American author and five other women. Cruz is the only Latina on the list. The winner will be announced on September 9.
Dominicana centers on Ana Canción, a 15-year-old Dominican girl whose family forces her into an arranged marriage with a much older man named Juan Ruiz. According to Ana’s mother, entering this marriage will cement a secure future for their family in the United States.
“As a longlister I had already been overwhelmed with gratitude to all the new readers in the UK and across Europe who say that the novel, Dominicana, resonates with them,” Cruz wrote to us on Thursday. “To see the book shortlisted is a testimony to the fact that our stories, if given the opportunity to be published, can become part of the mainstream discussion around immigration and women’s rights.”
The novel, Cruz’s third, is set in the 1960s and follows Ana’s journey from the Dominican Republic to New York City, where she finds herself in a physically abusive marriage and mostly confined to an apartment in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. When the Dominican Republic spirals into deeper political turmoil, a panicked Juan travels back to the island to protect his assets. He leaves Ana in his brother César’s care, and it is then that Ana tastes freedom and begins to envision how different her life could be in the U.S. The enterprising teenage bride begins learning English and selling Dominican fritura to César’s co-workers in downtown Manhattan, hiding her earnings in the hollowed ceramic faceless doll she names Dominicana. As Juan’s return grows closer, Ana must once again decide between what her heart desires and her duty to family.
Cruz, who was born and raised in the Heights, has said Dominicana was inspired by her mother, Dania.
In the online announcement earlier this week, Women’s Prize Chair of Judges Martha Lane Fox said Dominicana is a “story for now.”
“It’s told with vim, energy,” Fox said. “It’s told with incredible freshness and we think you’ll love the way that she brings this incredibly important story to life.”
Dominicana is written with great nuance, earning a rightful place on the shelf of the best books about the immigrant experience. The novel was written, in part, from countless hours of research and interviews that Cruz conducted with Dominican women. She also looked at old photo albums to help her piece together what life must have been like for a young Dominican woman arriving to New York City in 1965.
The other novels in the 2020 Women’s Prize shortlist are:
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
Hamnet by Maggie O’ Farrell
Weather by Jenny Offill
Congrats to Cruz for this major accomplishment! We previously ran an excerpt of Dominicana. You can read it here.