Creative writing lecturer and former London teacher Dr Hannah Lowe has won the 2021 Costa Book of the Year with her book, The Kids.
Hannah’s poetry collection beat the bookies’ favourite, the best-selling novelist Claire Fuller’s fourth book, to scoop the glittering award along with £30,000.
Hannah’s ‘uplifting’ sonnets draw on a decade of teaching at an inner-city London sixth form as well as her own coming of age during the 80s and 90s.
Announcing the award last night, BBC news broadcaster Reeta Chakrabarti, chairman of the judging panel, said: “Hannah Lowe's The Kids is a book to fall in love with – it's joyous, it's warm and it's completely universal. It's crafted and skilful but also accessible.”
Speaking after the London ceremony, Hannah said she was feeling ‘joy, squared’ at winning. “The book is very much a love song to young people and to the kids that I taught, who taught me so much,” she said.
“It’s also a book about my teachers, and again, my deep appreciation and thanks to everyone that’s taught me in my formal and informal education.”
Staff and Students are delighted to hear of Hannah's success, said Brunel's head of English and Creative Writing, Dr Jessica Cox. "Not only is it very well deserved - in addition to producing wonderful poetry, she is a brilliant colleague and fantastic lecturer."
The Kids last month won the Costa Poetry Award, one of the five categories in the Costa Book Awards. But it is rare for poetry to win Costa’s overall Book of the Year Award – only nine times in its 50 years, and Hannah said she was especially pleased poetry had outshone prose. “To win over some brilliant novels is really something and I feel very honoured,” she said. “I am struggling for words slightly but it does mean something because poetry has such a reputation for being either elitist or difficult.
Reeta Chakrabarti said: “We were looking for the most enjoyable book, the most accessible book, the book that you would most want to pass on to other people. And the winner spoke very directly to everybody. It has a universality to it – in a simple way, because everybody’s been to school.”
Born in Ilford to an English mother and Jamaican-Chinese father, Hannah’s first collection, Chick, in 2013 was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first poetry collection. The Kids, her third, was also shortlisted for the 2021 TS Eliot prize for poetry.
Hannah’s Costa Book Award joins a dazzling seam of prize-winning talent among Brunel Creative Writing lecturers, including Professor Bernadine Evaristo’s 2019 Booker Prize for Girl, Woman, Other, which made her the first black Brit to win, and Professor Benjamin Zephaniah’s 2021 BAFTA for his trailblazing poetry show, Life & Rhymes.