Rob and Rahim win PFD Queer Fiction Prizes

Jul 25, 2023

Peters Fraser + Dunlop (PFD) has announced the winners of the second year of the PFD Queer Fiction Prize, “set up to find “fresh new talent from an underrepresented community across adult and children’s fiction, and support the writers with the full weight of the agency”.

Kenyan writer Lelach Rob has won the Adult category for his literary fiction entry The Freedom of Birds and signs with agent Cara Lee Simpson. The Freedom of Birds tells the story of a queer man who moves back to his rural home of Tolosio, the village he originally fled from, after losing his job in Nairobi. There, he starts raising chickens and confronts his difficult scandalised past as he negotiates a new way to love and belong.

Rob said: “I am delighted to win. I started writing The Freedom of Birds  without thinking of a final output. I was just discovering its joys and hoping that when it met its readers, they would enjoy it as much as I did writing it. Through the prize, I’ve met Cara, the right agent for my work, with whom I look forward to shaping my story, one of hopes and dreams, that claims the right to a queer East Africa and brings it to the widest readership possible.”

Author and judge Tufayel Ahmed said of the work: “I was immediately drawn to the vivid characters and evocative sense of place in Lelach Rob’s writing. Rob uniquely explores how sexuality, identity, and culture intertwine in a small, rural community in Kenya. This feels like a story that needs to be told, and I can’t wait to read more.”

Kristina Rahim won the Children’s & YA category for her contemporary middle-grade novel The Doughnut Club and signs with Silvia Molteni. The description of the book reads: “When donor-conceived Quinn Parker discovers she has 16 donor-siblings, she’s delighted – until she realises one of them could be her worst enemy.”

Rahim said: “Being shortlisted for the PFD Queer Prize was an honour, but to be chosen as the winner has blown me away! I was inspired to write The Doughnut Club to demystify the world of donor-conception for kids. For donor children, including my own, there can be a lot of explaining to friends about how they came into the world. I am proud to be working on a story which helps these kids be seen, and hopefully, better understood.”

Author and judge Pil Van Martin, said: “I’ve had an absolute blast reading each of these entries — such a wealth of imagination, humour and deft characterisation — all the writers should be really proud of themselves. It’s always hard to pinpoint a winner, but Kristina’s vividly brilliant and wry Doughnut Club was already so accomplished, empathetic and light that it was impossible to resist! I know from personal experience that she’ll be in masterful hands with Silvia and the rest of the PFD team.”



Simpson added: “The quality of the entries this year was exceptionally high, and we are very excited to work with our new winners on developing their manuscripts. We’ve been delighted with the success of the prize since it was launched last year, with many entrants already going on to receive book deals.”

Winners and shortlistees of the first year of the PFD Queer Fiction Prize have already gone on to receive publishing deals for their novels. Lover Birds  by Leanne Egan (YA winner 2022) was pre-empted by HarperCollins Children’s, while Anna Quirke and Phoebe Stuckes’ shortlisted titles have sold in yet to be announced deals. Shortlisted title The Coast Road  by Alan Murrin went to Bloomsbury. The prize will run again in 2024, with further details to be announced.