Introducing the winner of the Nan Shepherd Prize 2023: Alycia Pirmohamed

15 November 2023

Alycia Pirmohamed, 2023 Nan Shepherd Prize winner

Alycia Pirmohamed has won the Nan Shepherd Prize for underrepresented voices in nature writing with her urgent, captivating submission A Beautiful and Vital Place. It will be published by Canongate. Find out more at the Nan Shepherd Prize website.

Alycia is a poet whose work has previously won awards including a Pushcart Prize, and the 2020 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. In A Beautiful and Vital Place, her non-fiction debut, she explores the homelands and identities she has inhabited. From being a young Muslim girl caught in the psychological aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks – made to feel her body as racialised and her faith as seemingly dangerous – to making lives for herself in Midwestern Canada, the Pacific Northwest, East Africa and the United Kingdom. Everywhere, the landscape comes to represent how she understands her body – feeling safe or unsafe, welcome or unwelcome.

The Nan Shepherd Prize judges emphasised that they found something compelling about each of the shortlisted entries, and that they were all, in their own way, surprising and important. On A Beautiful and Vital Place they said:

“We all agreed that Alycia’s piece has a poet’s sensibility: full of beautiful, visceral writing. We were drawn to the vulnerability at the heart of the writing and her artistic as well as transnational journey. Showing a real strength in engaging with other texts and concepts, this was anchored by a winningly distinct voice and a perspective of Muslim queerness that felt urgent and fresh.”

Alycia said: “It's an honour to win the Nan Shepherd Prize – a prize I wholeheartedly believe in. I’m so grateful to the judges for trusting in this book, and for this opportunity to carve out a space in nature writing. Underrepresented identities are politicised; right now, world powers and mainstream media are dehumanising Muslims to justify war crimes in Palestine. My book navigates Islamophobia and my experience as a Muslim woman, and it’s more important than ever for our voices to be heard in this political climate.”

The two previous winners of the Nan Shepherd Prize are Nina Mingya Powles with Small Bodies of Water, and Marchelle Farrell with Uprooting.