Elizabeth Chakrabarty is one of ten emerging writers in the running for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2022,‘the UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists’ (Telegraph). The winning author will receive a £10,000 prize along with a year-long package of support with the National Centre for Writing to help them progress their career. Stay tuned for the shortlist announcement on Tuesday 7 June.
Elizabeth Chakrabarty is an interdisciplinary writer who uses creative and critical writing to explore themes of race, gender and sexuality. Her debut novel Lessons in Love and Other Crimes was published by the Indigo Press in 2021.
Elizabeth was shortlisted for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2022. Her story ‘Eurovision’ was shortlisted for the Asian Writer Short Story Prize 2016 and published in Dividing Lines (Dahlia Publishing, 2017). Her poetry has been published by Visual Verse and her shorter creative-critical work includes pieces in New Writing Dundee, Glänta, Wasafiri and the anthology Imagined Spaces (Saraband, 2020).
The final layer in this hybrid novel is a series of interjections from the author, including a personal account of her experience growing up dealing with racism in Britain. Chakrabarty makes it clear that everything that happens to Tesya is something she has experienced herself. She also interrupts the narrative every now and then to comment on her own writing process.
All of this makes Lessons in Love and Other Crimes a multi-layered and thought-provoking work. Occasionally the flow is interrupted by ideas which are explained more than they need to be. But perhaps this is appropriate in the context of a book about people not comprehending the experiences of others.
Tesya finds herself victimized again at work by an unknown assailant, who subjects her to an insidious, sustained race hate crime. As her paranoia mounts, Tesya finds herself yearning for the most elemental desires: love, acceptance, and sanctuary. Her assailant, meanwhile, is recording his manifesto, and plotting his next steps.
Inspired by the author’s personal experiences of hate crime and bookended with essays which contextualise the story within a lifetime of microaggressions, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes is a heart-breaking, hopeful, and compulsively readable novel about the most quotidian of crimes.
Check out this interview with Elizabeth Chakrabarty discussing the themes of race, gender and sexuality in her novel →
Alongside the story of Tesya, the readers are able to enjoy Chakrabarty’s essays and personal musings. She interrupts the narrative to remind you- these crimes are not fictional and have really happened. Elizabeth’s heartfelt and addictive story is paramount considering the current climate. Her honest approach encourages audiences to discuss the topics unearthed in the book and despite, the awful crimes detailed in the novel, gives a sense of community.
Listen to Elizabeth Chakrabarty discuss her book on a full-length episode of The Polari Prize podcast →
From April 2021 and with additional commentary from Paul Burston and Sophia Blackwell, this new full-length episode features Elizabeth Chakrabarty (Lessons in Love and Other Hate Crimes) Musa Okwonga (One of Them, In The End It Was All About Love) and Nikita Gill (Where Hope Comes From).
Check out your local bookshop to buy a copy of Elizabeth’s ‘fierce‘ debut novel (Preti Taneja). Or head to Bookshop.org to support independent bookshops countrywide. Here’s a hand-pick of our favourites:
Looking for more interesting books to add to your ‘to be read’ pile? Check out the full Desmond Elliott Prize longlist on our website! We’d love you to share your thoughts on social media and tag us on Instagram and Twitter. 🥰📚