The novel Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart has won the 2020 Booker Prize. The novel follows a young boy growing up with a mother suffering from addiction issues in working-class Glasgow, Scotland, in the 1980s, and is only the second Scottish novel to win the Booker Prize, after James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late, which won in 1994. The award comes with a £50,000 purse.
Shuggie Bain is published by Grove Atlantic in the United States and, in Stuart's acceptance speech, he name-checked his American editor, Peter Blackstock, and the press for "being the only publisher that would take a chance on the book" in the U.S.
This year's Booker Prize ceremony was entirely virtual. Typically, the event features a five-hour gala dinner, but this year's event was compressed into a single hour, streamed over the internet. Dubbed a "ceremony without walls," the event was hosted hosted by John Wilson, and included readings from each of the shortlisted books and included appearances by the Duchess of Cornwall, the 2019 dual winners Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, and former U.S. President Barack Obama, who praised the work of the Booker Prize foundation in promoting reading and expressed his appreciation for reading fiction, which gave him a "respite" from the rigors of his previous life in the White House.
"I’ve always turned to writing to make sense of our world...and at their best, Booker Prize–listed books remind me of fiction’s power to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, understand their struggles, and imagine new ways to tackle complex problems and effect change," Obama said. "I want to salute the work of the Booker Prize Foundation to encourage people to read more fiction and promote the art of reading for the public benefit."
Prior to the announcement of the prize, Margaret Busby, chair of the 2020 judges and a highly regarded publisher of books about Africa and the Black experience in the U.K., underscored the diversity and inclusiveness of the the prize, noting that Bernardine Evaristo was the first Black woman writer to win and that this year's shortlist included three BIPOC women writers. "The Booker Prize was established in 1969, the same year I founded by publishing house [Allison & Busby]," said Busby. "It wasn't until 2015 that we had the first Black Booker Prize judge, and since then have had more than in the past 50 years.... Look how far the Booker Prize has come."