December 7, 2022

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Nazneen Khan-Østrem

Criticizes Brage Award for Being Too “White” – NRK Culture and Entertainment

Among the nominees for this year bargain price They do not have a multicultural background. Of the 16 people on the jury, only one has a multicultural background.

—that the jury is too white, to use such a term, I find bothersome and irritating, says Nazanin Khan Ustream of this year’s Brage Prize jury.

Former publishing editor and commentator Aftenposten believes that awareness of diversity in the book industry has increased, but it is still going very slowly.

Today, there is no shortage of multicultural people who can participate on juries in the cultural industry. It is important that members reflect the diversity that exists in Norway. applies to all minorities; Not just ethnic.

Since 2019, two multicultural writers have been nominated for the Brage Prize. Among the jury members are two people with a multicultural background, including this year’s jury.

The Brage Prize is a Norwegian literary award awarded each year by the Norwegian Book Prize Foundation. The purpose of the award is to honor new Norwegian literature.

Photo: Siss Vik/NRK

Shazia Majid has been nominated for the 2019 Brage Award. This year, she is disappointed that there are no multicultural nominees.

– We have a more diverse nation and this should also be reflected in Norwegian literature, says Majid and adds:

It is as if you are not treated as equal to others, or the jury does not see new qualities and new ways of evaluating literature.

Brage Board Leader: – Embarrassing

Carrie Marstein, director of publishing at Gyldendal and leader of the Brager Council, believes it is embarrassing and in no way acceptable to have so few people with a multicultural background on the jury and among the candidates.

– It’s clearly not good enough. Marstein says I fully agree with and understand the criticism.

It clarifies that there was not enough attention to this in the selection of the members of the jury.

– It’s only embarrassing that it was necessary to let us know.

But Marchstein does not think it can be said that the books of multicultural authors are systematically ignored.

– Currently there are very few books where the author has a multicultural background. Since the percentage is so small, it’s hard to say for sure that these books are systematically ignored when it comes to attention, awards, and nominations. I’m not saying that can’t be the case. But I cannot see that there is any basis for saying that this is the case either.

Kamara Lundstadt Goff during the awarding of the 2021 Brage Prize at Dansens hus in Oslo.

Kamara Lundstadt Goff during the awarding of the 2021 Brage Prize at Dansens hus in Oslo.

Photo: Annika Birdy / NTB

In 2022, there were many books by authors with a multicultural background. Among other things; Zeeshan Chakar They call me a wolfBringolf Jongjoon: white, norwegian man And the godfather: My Journey to the Underworld Written by Ghulam Abbas and Keitel Ostley.

Majid does not agree that there is a shortage of books and authors with a multicultural background.

– For me, it is impressive, for example, that Zeeshan Chakar was not nominated for any of his books. His books were a turning point in contemporary Norwegian literature.

She believes that part of the responsibility lies with the Norwegian publishers, who are the ones who nominate the books for the jury.

We need more people who dare and want to write books, and we need publishers who believe in their talent and don’t just fill a quota.

Marstein is a thankful publisher and believes he should have been nominated, but this also applies to many of the books published each year.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of books worth highlighting, but they are not, says Marstein.

Skeptical about the stakes

On the question of whether quotas for jurors could be a solution, Khan Ustream replied that she was very skeptical.

The most important thing is for the best books to be nominated, not to fulfill a societal demand. But how literature is read, interpreted, and experienced has a lot to do with one’s perspective and experience. Therefore, a more diverse jury will have different standards and ideas about what good literature is.

Khan Ustream believes it is time for the book industry to take the importance of diversity seriously.

– Public talk has taken care of this question for a long time now. It should be a “no-brainer” to realize that the jury should be made up of people from different backgrounds. No matter what industry you work in.

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