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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Hay winner's search for identity
Welsh Book of the Year Winner Charlotte Williams
Charlotte Williams
Somehow to be half-Welsh and half Afro-Caribbean was to be half of something but never quite anything whole at all
A first-time writer who travelled halfway round the world to trace her roots has won the Welsh Book of the Year award at the Hay Festival.

Charlotte Williams' tale of her search for her identity, entitled Sugar and Slate, took her to three different continents.

Ms Williams, who has Welsh, African and Latin American heritage, wrote the book following trips across the world to find more about her background.

She overcame challenges from 60 other writers to claim the 3,000 first prize.

The daughter of a white Welsh-speaking mother and a black father from Guyana in the Caribbean, Ms Williams said the journey to research her past became a confrontation with herself and the idea of Welshness.

In the book she recalls feeling as a child growing up in Llandudno, north Wales, that "somehow to be half-Welsh and half Afro-Caribbean was to be half of something but never quite anything whole at all".

Charlotte Williams
Williams: 'It's a book about multiple heritage.'
Speaking at Hay, the Bangor University lecturer told BBC Wales: "It's absolutely fantastic to get a literary prize with your first book.

"It's a book about multiple heritage and I think the visit to these countries, to my heritage, were very important in understanding where I'm up to, where I belong and where I'll be going.

"I wrote the book with many others in mind.

"I wanted to reaffirm the idea of black Welsh identity and I wanted to show that there are many ways of being Welsh."

Judge Nicholas Murray said the book had a "wonderful kind of spontaneity and authenticity of feeling about it".

He said the Welsh black experience needed to be better understood by everybody.

"I think it is particularly important from that point of view.

Rageh Omaar
Rageh Omaar joins a panel discussing Iraq
"The exploration of roots is also an exploration of what Welshness means and by giving a new and different perspective on that, I think it's very valuable."

The Welsh language prize was won by Angharad Price for her book O! Tyn y Gourchudd, a mixture of biography and fiction based on the life of her great-aunt.

The awards came as the Hay Festival nears its half-way point.

It has already hosted such giants of the literary world as Canadian novelist and Booker prize-winner Margaret Atwood and acclaimed American novelist Don DeLillo.

However, as usual the festival's focus goes beyond the written word.

On Tuesday, BBC news correspondent Rageh Omaar, who reported from Baghdad during the Iraq war, joins a panel of experts to discuss an environmental regeneration project in the Arab country.

In the evening, award-winning comedian Jo Brand performs a stand-up show.

The festival runs until Sunday, 1 June, with the final session from yet another Booker-winning author, Ian McEwan, who will discuss his recent novel Atonement and his new writing.

About 75,000 people are expected to attend this the 16th festival hosted by the small Welsh borders town of Hay-on-Wye.

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30 May 01  |  Wales

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