Annie Zaidi, a freelance writer whose work includes reportage, essays, short stories, poetry and plays, has been announced as the winner of the Nine Dots Prize 2019/20.
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 proposed book will answer the central question through examining how a citizen’s sense of ‘home’ might collapse, or be recovered. You can read an extract from her winning entry here.
Zaidi began her career as a reporter with stints at leading newspapers and magazines including Mid-Day and Frontline. She has published both fiction and non-fiction: Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales is a collection of essays shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award in 2010, and Love Stories # 1 to 14 is a collection of short fiction published in 2012. In 2015, she published an anthology called Unbound: 2,000 Years of Indian Women’s Writing. Elle magazine named Zaidi as one of the emerging South Asian writers “whose writing… will enrich South Asian literature”. She currently works as a freelance writer, working on fiction, scripts and columns for magazines and newspapers.
Zaidi says: “What really appealed to me about the Nine Dots Prize was the way it 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. I had been working towards a similarly themed project for a while but didn’t 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. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to the challenges and excitement of the year ahead.”
Bread, Cement, Cactus: A Memoir of Belonging and Dislocation
May 28, 2020
In this exploration of the meaning of home, Annie Zaidi reflects on the places in India from which she derives her sense of identity. She looks back on the now renamed city of her birth and the impossibility of belonging in the industrial township where she grew up. From her ancestral village, in a region notorious for its gangsters, to the mega-city where she now lives, Zaidi provides a nuanced perspective on forging a sense of belonging as a minority and a migrant in places where other communities consider you an outsider, and of the fragility of home left behind and changed beyond recognition.
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