A Swift Pure Cry

Last week, Ed Park called attention to a thoughtful obituary in the Guardian for Siobhan Dowd (which has since been posted on the membership page of PEN’s website). Dowd was born in London and worked as a researcher for the Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN before coming to New York and spending seven years at PEN American Center.
Her first novel to appear in print was A Swift Pure Cry (2006), a troubling tale, based on events in Ireland in the early 1980s, in which a 15-year-old girl, Shell, struggles to survive in a world of poverty, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy and moral hypocrisy. She wrote it in three months in the autumn of 2004.

Siobhan's fictional debut was met with immediate critical acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction prize and in May this year, Waterstone's identified her as one of the top 25 authors for the future. Though she maintained her campaigning zeal, as co-founder of English PEN's readers and writers programme, promoting writing in prisons and deprived communities, she was quickly becoming a full-time author with an ambitious programme of speaking tours and events, which was cut short by breast cancer.

Typically, while dying, Siobhan thought of other people, setting up a trust for promoting literature among youth offenders and other disadvantaged young people, into which her future royalties will be channelled.

1 comment:

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