Monica Ali is a Bangladeshi-born British writer and novelist and is the author of four books: Brick Lane, Alentejo Blue, In the Kitchen and Untold Story. In 2003 she was selected as one of the “Best of Young British Novelists” by Granta magazine based on her unpublished manuscript; her debut novel, Brick Lane, was published later that year. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name.
Ali was born in 1967 in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, which at the time was known as East Pakistan, and moved to Bolton in 1971. When her first child was born, Ali decided to join an online shortstory writing group. She had never tried writing fiction before, but as she told the Observer ‘s Harriet Lane, “quite quickly I felt a bit constrained by the short-story format, as though I didn’t have room to breathe. There was something else that I wanted to do. And then it was a question of getting up the courage.”
Her first novel, Brick Lane, won generous accolades for its comic yet heartfelt portrayal of a young Bangladeshi woman and her life in London, and was hailed as “a serious work in the best sense of the term,” by Nation reviewer Diana Abu-Jaber. “It has weight, purpose and passion.” Across the Atlantic, Brick Lane also resonated with critics. “It usually takes two or three books [for a writer] to establish their form,” asserted Michael Gorra in the New York Times , “and yet Monica Ali already has a sense of technical assurance and an inborn generosity that cannot be learned. Brick Lane inspires confidence about the career that is to come.”
Monica Ali explains why she is a Patron of the Prize:
“A recent report examining the UK publishing industry (Writing the Future, 2015) highlighted poor commitment to diversity across the industry, and the stagnating and, in some cases, decreasing number of authors and publishing professionals from a BAME background. The SI Leeds Literary Prize provides urgent and necessary redress to this situation, and I am proud to be associated with it.”