These are extraordinary times.

Across the world, we are undergoing a significant political, social and cultural transformation. Many of us are asking ourselves what kind of communities we want to live in and hand over to future generations. Debates about identity, memory, belonging, co-existence and integration are being dramatically reframed. Everyday we are bombarded with thousands of images and information: it becomes increasingly difficult to detect the boundary between fact and falsehood.

Against this turbulent background, it’s more important than ever before to understand the power and the positive potential of words.

I feel truly privileged and honoured to join British Council and National Centre for Writing in their effort to showcase ten of our most prominent female writers and poets at work today. Their distinct voices speak both to our minds and to our hearts, calling us from diverse parts of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.

I see these ten women writers and poets as the voice of our conscience.

Each writer is very different in terms of style and subject matter, and yet they all share a significant trait: a passionate commitment to the art and craft of storytelling. To the power and the positive potential of words.

Their voices bring clarity into the commotion of our times.

Their words heal wounds, old and new.

Their stories help us to understand not only other people’s pain and anger and resilience, but also our own.

Most importantly, they rehumanize those who have been dehumanized. Swimming against the tide of tribalism, they connect us across regions, religions, ethnicities and dialects.

When things are happening too fast, literature demands us to slow down, take a look within and restore our individuality. When the world is divided into “us” and “them”, literature bravely reminds that there is no “us” and there is no “them”. It reminds us that “the other” is, in truth, my brother, my sister.

I see these ten women writers and poets as the voice of our conscience.

Together and on their own, they work, they write, they resist and they renew our faith in humanity.

Elif Shafak, February 2019

Elif Shafak reveals her selection of 10 brilliant UK women writers

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