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Creative Writing Professor Tessa McWatt wins prestigious award

Professor McWatt will research upcoming memoir 'Porous'

University of East London (UEL) Creative Writing Professor Tessa McWatt has won the Eccles British Library Writer's Award.

She will receive £20,000 and the use of the British Library's collections to research her upcoming memoir Porous: A memoir of race and stories.

Professor McWatt said, "I'm deeply honoured and very excited to get started to use the Eccles collection."

Professor McWatt is the author of six novels and two books for young people.  Her fiction has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award, the City of Toronto Book Awards and the OCM Bocas Prize.  She is also a librettist and screenwriter.  

In Porous, Professor McWatt will set out to explore the hybridity of her racial and cultural heritage, and to try to understand the social whiteness, political blackness and cultural duality of the privilege she has. 

The book will trace the history of her ancestry by embracing and undermining race at the same time, by tracing her heritage through investigating the factual context for the mythical family tales in a trail of DNA from Britain, Europe, Africa, India, China and the indigenous people of British Guiana.  

The Eccles Centre for American Studies, based at the British Library , has two broad aims: to increase awareness and use of the Library's North American holdings, and to promote and support the study of North America in the United Kingdom through the collections and a programme of events. 

East London writer Stuart Evers is a co-winner, with Professor McWatt, of the 2018 award.

Acting Head of the Eccles Centre, Dr Cara Rodway, said, ‘In awarding the 2018 Eccles British Library Writer’s Award prizes to Stuart Evers and Tessa McWatt, the judges have once again demonstrated that the British Library can support creative and original research. 

"The prizes will offer these 2018 holders the chance to explore the trans-Atlantic and global themes through the unique resources of the British Library, and the projects undertaken by Stuart Evers and Tessa McWatt, as with the work undertaken by the previous 12 award holders will, in the future, guide readers through the wonderful and surprising materials which can be uncovered in the British Library’s collections.’