The 2017 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing has been awarded to Rafeif Ismail, a 23-year old Perth woman from a Sudanese background.

The Prize which awards $3000 plus a three-month mentorship with an established writer to an unpublished writer from a migrant background, was presented by lawyer and writer Nyadol Nyuon at an event in Melbourne.

Ms Ismail’s winning entry, Almitra Amongst Ghosts, is part of a larger collection in development, String Theory, that follows three Sudanese refugee youths through their coming-of-age in Australia, and explores Sudanese storytelling techniques through western writing styles.

In their statement, the judging panel said, ‘In Almitra among the Ghosts Rafeif Ismail has invented a new style of poetry-prose that incorporates her home culture with English in a startling way. We were astonished by the voice and the power of the writing. She writes with skill and restraint and her work reads like poetry — each word is there for a purpose.’

Rafeif Ismail said, ‘I wish to highlight the myriad of experiences of refugee youths while exploring the differences and similarities between Sudanese and Australian cultures. I hope to write a work for third-culture youths, who are left out of the mainstream literature of their new home and not represented by the stories of their countries of origin.’

The Prize was created in 2015 in memory of Deborah Cass (1960-2013), an international law academic and writer, whose grandparents were Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe.

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