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UEA professor wins Costa Biography Award

Prof Rebecca Stott has won the prestigious 2017 Costa Biography Award for her book, In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, A Father, a Cult.

Described by the judges as “a vivid and truly unforgettable family story of life in a cult”, the book is a shocking, deeply personal family memoir. The first-hand account recalls Prof Stott’s experience of growing up in, and breaking away from, a fundamentalist Christian cult in Brighton in the 1970s.

A novelist, non-fiction writer and broadcaster, Prof Stott is professor of literature and creative writing in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing. In the Days of Rain was published by 4th Estate last year.

Prof Stott writes: “At university when I made new friends and confidantes, I couldn’t explain how I’d become a teenage mother, or shoplifted books for years, or why I was afraid of the dark and had a compulsion to rescue people, without explaining about the Brethren or the God they made for us, and the Rapture they told us was coming. But then I couldn’t really begin to talk about the Brethren without explaining about my father…”

The five Costa category winners – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – were announced at a ceremony in London on January 2. One of the five winners will be chosen as Book of the Year on January 30. Costa category winners will receive £5,000, while the overall Costa Book of the Year Award winner will receive £30,000.

Prof Alison Donnell, head of UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, said: “We are delighted that Prof Rebecca Stott’s memoir In The Days Of Rain has won the Costa Biography Award for 2017.

“This enthralling account of her family’s life within the closed religious community of the Exclusive Brethren and in the aftermath of leaving it draws on the power of stories to control and to liberate. Charged with releasing her father’s tortuous and buried memories, her story of recovery and loss is both intensely personal and inherently political.

“Prof Stott’s accomplishment, in what is also a feminist account of her awakening to a world of male power, is to show how formidable and enduring the connection between ideological and subjective worlds can be. The School is immensely proud to have such a talented writer and generous teacher on its staff, and warmly congratulates Rebecca on her prize.”

Prof Sarah Barrow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, said: “I am so pleased and proud for Rebecca and of the success of her brave and important work which yet again demonstrates the significant role that arts and culture have to play in helping to understand and shape who we are as human beings.”

Prof Stott teaches on both literature and creative writing modules. She has written a number of critically acclaimed books, both fiction and non-fiction, and works across different disciplines including history, literature and the history of science. Her books include Darwin and the Barnacle (2003), Theatres of Glass (2003), Oyster (2004), and Darwin’s Ghosts (2012). Her first novel Ghostwalk was published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in the UK in 2007 and translated into 14 languages. This was followed by The Coral Thief in 2009.