Indian playwright and journalist Annie Zaidi was announced the winner of the 2019 Nine Dots Prize for her essay Bread, Cement, Cactus.
The Nine Dots Prize is a book prize for creative thinking that tackles contemporary societal issues. Entrants for the prize are asked to respond to a question in 3,000 words and the winner receives $1,00,000 to write a short book expanding on the essay’s idea. The question this year was “Is there still no place like home?”
“Zaidi’s entry, ‘Bread, Cement, Cactus’, combines memoir and reportage to explore concepts of home and belonging rooted in her experience of contemporary life in India, where migration – within the country, especially from villages to cities – is high,” the Nine Dots Prize said in a statement.
Zaidi, who is a freelance writer based in Mumbai, said the Nine Dots Prize encourages entrants to think without borders or restraints. “My work has often crossed over genres, traversing between memoir and journalism, and this timely but wide-open question encouraged us to approach it with methods that were equally far-ranging,” she said, according to PTI.
Zaidi said she had been working towards a similarly themed project for a while, but she did not “have the financial, or even mental, bandwidth to do it justice”. “The Prize will allow me to dedicate time to the examination of this question, which is of critical importance in the modern world – and it will help fund the necessary research trips, which, as a freelancer, is something I appreciate hugely.”
Zaidi’s book based on her Nine Dots Prize-winning essay will be published by Cambridge University Press in May 2020.
The entries for the prize were judged anonymously by 11 members of the Nine Dots Prize Board which comprises academics, journalists and thinkers. The board is chaired by Professor Simon Goldhill, a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. “In Annie Zaidi we have found a powerful and compelling voice with a unique insight into what home means for citizens of the world today,” said Goldhill. “We are very excited to see how Annie’s work will develop over the coming year and hope that it will help further current conversations around the concept of belonging worldwide.”
Zaidi has published fiction and non-fiction, including a collection of essays Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales, which was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award in 2010, and Love Stories #1 to 14, a collection of short fiction published in 2012.