Tilda Wilson in NPR:
Fatimah Asghar is the first recipient of the Carol Shields prize for fiction for their debut novel When We Were Sisters. The award was announced Thursday evening at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn. They will receive $150,000 as well as a writing residency at Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Asghar’s When We Were Sisters is a coming-of-age novel that follows three orphaned Muslim-American siblings left to raise one another in the aftermath of their parents’ death. The prize jury wrote that Asghar “weaves narrative threads as exacting and spare as luminous poems,” and their novel is “head-turning in its experimentations.” When We Were Sisters reflects some of Ashgar’s own experiences both as a queer South Asian Muslim and a person whose parents died when they were young. In October, they told NPR’s Scott Simon that being on the margins of society and vulnerable from such a young age was a window into “a certain kind of cruelty that I think most people don’t have a reference point for.”
Ashgar said that the stories they read about orphans while growing up never really rang true — that they’d always think “this doesn’t feel accurate.”