Tara Dorabji Wins Second Annual Books Like Us First Novel Prize at Simon & Schuster

NEW YORK, February 21—Simon & Schuster announced today that Tara Dorabji won the 2022 Books Like Us first novel grand prize, for her novel FIRE. Set in a fictional land that draws much from occupied Kashmir, FIRE is an intergenerational story of love, betrayal, and family secrets that takes the reader into everyday life under military occupation.

Tara Dorabji is a writer, radio journalist, mother, filmmaker and Vice President at The Center for Cultural Power, a home for artists and activists. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation. Her work is published in Al Jazeera, The Chicago Quarterly, Huizache, and acclaimed anthologies including Good Girls Marry Doctors & All the Women in My Family Sing. She received a 2019 & 2021 Arts Commission from the San Francisco Arts Commission for her writing and documentaries on Kashmir. Her award-winning documentary films, “Rise from It” and “Here Still,” were screened at film festivals throughout Asia and the United States, including at the Jaipur International Film Festival, the world’s largest competitive film festival. Awards include 2020 Best Short Documentary Film at Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Award for Best Short Documentary Film 2020, Asia’s Best Independent Documentary Film at the All Asia Independent Film Festival 2020, a Silver Medal at the 2020 Asia South East Short Film Festival, and The Debut Filmmaker Award from the Druk International Film Festival in 2020.

Emma Deshpande, for her novel SPIRAL, and Valentine Marie, for her novel HYMN FOR THE BROKEN, were the semifinalists. 

Emma Deshpande writes about biracial Indian-Irish and queer experiences and questions she wishes she had asked her grandparents. She is currently at work on two novels. Her short fiction has appeared in On the Run, Passengers Journal, and the 2020 anthology More Time. In 2022, she was longlisted for the Granum Foundation Prize. She was shortlisted for the 53rd Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest in 2020 and won the University College London Publisher’s Prize in 2018. Her work has received support from Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop, Aspen Words, A Public Space, One Story, and Tin House. She lived in London for four years and now lives in New York City. You can find her on Instagram @deshpande_writes.

Valentine Marie is a Kenyan-American writer fascinated by stories involving complicated women, families, and homelands. Valentine was a Summer Fellow with the Anaphora Arts Residency and a participant of Tomi Adeyemi’s inaugural cohort of The Writer’s Roadmap. When not revising, Valentine enjoys book clubs, dancing, and solo travelling – her most recent favorite: a summer weekend in Montreal.

The Books Like Us contest was established in 2021 to increase accessibility to underrepresented writers and celebrate the diversity of readers across the United States. The contest was first administered by Gallery Books, and the grand prize winner was Elba Iris Pérez. Her novel THE THINGS WE DIDN’T KNOW is scheduled to be published in the spring of 2024.

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