Douglas Stuart (writer)

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Douglas Stuart
Douglas Stuart.png
Douglas Stuart in 2020
Born1976 (age 44–45)
  • Novelist
  • fashion designer
Notable work
Shuggie Bain (2020)
Spouse(s)Michael Cary
Awards2020 Booker Prize

Douglas Stuart (born 1976)[1] is a Scottish-American writer and fashion designer. His debut novel, Shuggie Bain, was awarded the 2020 Booker Prize.

Early life[edit]

Stuart was born in Sighthill, a housing estate in Glasgow, Scotland.[1] He was the youngest of three siblings. His father left him and his family when he was young, and he was raised by a single mother battling alcoholism and addiction.[2] His mother died from alcoholism-related health issues when he was 16. Subsequently, when he would go on to write his debut Booker Prize-winning novel, Shuggie Bain, the book would be inspired by his struggles, his mother's struggles as she battled alcoholism and his relationship with his mother.[3] Speaking about his mother, he says: "My mother died very quietly of addiction one day."[4] After his mother's death, he lived with his older brother before moving into a boarding house when he was 17.[2]

Writing on Lithub about working-class living in the late 1970s and 1980s, Stuart notes that he grew up in a house without books and surrounded by poverty. This was the time when Thatcher-era economic policies had "decimated the working man," moving industry away from the west coast of Scotland, leaving behind mass unemployment, alcoholism, and drug abuse.[5]

He received a bachelor's degree from the Scottish College of Textiles and a master's degree from the Royal College of Art in London.[6] He had no formal education in literature and notes that while he wanted to study English literature in college, he was discouraged from choosing the subject by a teacher who mentioned that it would "not suit someone from his background," resulting in him subsequently studying textiles instead.[2]


Stuart moved to New York City at the age of 24 to begin a career in fashion design. He worked for many brands, including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic and Jack Spade, for more than 20 years.[6] Stuart balanced his writing with his design job. It is noted that he started writing his first novel when he was balancing 12-hour shifts as a senior director of design at Banana Republic.[7]

Prior to his first novel being published, his works were featured on The New Yorker and on LitHub.[8]

His first novel, Shuggie Bain, won the 2020 Booker Prize, chosen by a judging panel comprising Margaret Busby (chair), Lee Child, Sameer Rahim, Lemn Sissay, and Emily Wilson.[9][10] Stuart is the second Scottish author to win the Booker Prize in its 51-year history,[11] after it was awarded in 1994 to James Kelman for How Late It Was, How Late,[12] which book Stuart has credited with changing his life, since it was "one of the first times he had seen his people and dialect on the page".[13][14][15] Stuart said: "When James won in the mid-90s, Scottish voices were seen as disruptive and outside the norm."[9]

Shuggie Bain was also longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction,[16] shortlisted for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize,[17] and was a finalist for both the 2020 Kirkus Prize[18] and the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.[19][20] However, when Stuart wrote the novel, responses from publishers were not as encouraging, with the book being rejected by 32 US publishing companies[21] (as well as a dozen in the UK),[22] before it was finally sold to American independent publisher Grove Atlantic,[7] who published it in hardcover on 11 February 2020.[23] Shuggie Bain was later published in the United Kingdom by the Picador imprint of Pan Macmillan.[24]

The novel received generally favourable review coverage once it was published, including in The Observer,[25] The New York Times,[26] The Scotsman,[27] the TLS,[28] The Hindu,[29] and elsewhere. The book was praised for its authentic portrayal of post-industrial working-class Glasgow of the 1980s and early 1990s, and also for his capture of the "wry, indefatigable Glaswegian voice in all its various shades of wit, anger and hope."[4] Speaking at the Booker Prize award ceremony, Margaret Busby, chair of the panel, noted that the book was destined to be a classic, and went on to describe the work as a "moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values."[9]

In November 2020, Stuart revealed that he had finished his second novel, Loch Awe, also set in mid-1990s Glasgow.[30] The book is a love story between two young men, set against the backdrop of post-industrial Glasgow, with its territorial gangs, and divisions across sectarian lines. In his words, the book is about "toxic masculinity" and the violence that can stem from pressures on working-class boys to "man-up".[31][32]

In a conversation with 2019 Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo on 23 November, livestreamed as a Southbank Centre event, Stuart said: "One of my biggest regrets I think is that growing up so poor I almost had to elevate myself to the middle class to turn around to tell a working-class story."[21] Discussing the "middle-class" publishers' rejections he had received for Shuggie Bain, he told Evaristo: "Everyone was writing these really gorgeous letters. They were saying 'Oh my god this will win all of the awards and it's such an amazing book and I have never read anything like that, but I have no idea how to market it'."[21]

Personal life[edit]

Stuart holds dual British and American citizenship.[33] He lives in East Village, Manhattan, with his husband, Michael Cary, an art curator at the Gagosian Gallery.[7]


  • Shuggie Bain: A Novel. New York: Grove Press. 2020. ISBN 978-0-8021-4804-9. UK, Picador.


  1. ^ a b Millen, Robbie (15 September 2020). "Why Douglas Stuart's Shuggie Bain deserves to win the Booker prize". The Times. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Alter, Alexandra (23 October 2020). "How 'Shuggie Bain' Became This Year's Breakout Debut". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  3. ^ Clark, Alex (22 November 2020). "Shuggie Bain's tale tells us that the Booker prize has matured". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  4. ^ a b E.C. (20 November 2020). "Douglas Stuart's "Shuggie Bain" wins the Booker Prize". The Economist (Prospero blog). ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  5. ^ Stuart, Douglas (10 February 2020). "Poverty, Anxiety, and Gender in Scottish Working-Class Literature". Literary Hub. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  6. ^ a b Alter, Alexandra (23 October 2020). "How 'Shuggie Bain' Became This Year's Breakout Debut". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Alter, Alexandra (19 November 2020). "Douglas Stuart Wins Booker Prize for 'Shuggie Bain'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Douglas Stuart | The Booker Prizes". Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Flood, Alison (19 November 2020). "Douglas Stuart wins Booker prize for debut Shuggie Bain". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  10. ^ Shuggie Bain, The Booker Prizes website.
  11. ^ Chilton, Martin (26 November 2020). "Booker prize winner Douglas Stuart: 'Homophobia makes you think there's something broken'". The Independent. Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  12. ^ Duffy, Judith (15 November 2020). "Douglas Stuart's Shuggie Bain could be second Scottish book to win Booker prize". The National. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  13. ^ Doyle, Martin (19 November 2020). "Douglas Stuart wins 2020 Booker Prize for Shuggie Bain". The Irish Times.
  14. ^ "Douglas Stuart wins Booker Prize". BookBrunch. 20 November 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Interview with longlisted author Douglas Stuart". The Booker Prizes. 11 August 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  16. ^ "Longlist for 2021 Carnegie Medals Announced". American Libraries. 26 October 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  17. ^ "2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Longlist". Publishers Weekly. 22 July 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  18. ^ Schaub, Michael (9 September 2020). "Kirkus Prize Finalists Are Announced". Kirkus. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  19. ^ Kircher, Madison Malone (6 October 2020). "The National Book Awards Finalists Hath Arrived". Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  20. ^ "National Book Awards 2020 shortlists announced". Books+Publishing. 7 October 2020. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  21. ^ a b c "The Londoner: Booker winners Douglas Stuart and Bernadine Evaristo say publishers are too middle-class". Evening Standard. 24 November 2020.
  22. ^ Macaskill, Mark (29 November 2020). "Scottish Booker prize winner Shuggie Bain was rejected by 44 publishers". The Times.
  23. ^ "Shuggie Bain". Grove Atlantic. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  24. ^ "Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart". Pan Macmillan. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  25. ^ Preston, Alex (9 August 2020). "Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart review – lithe, revelatory debut". The Observer.
  26. ^ Cohen, Leah Hager (11 February 2020). "In 1980s Glasgow, a World of Pain Made Bearable by Love". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Massie, Allan (21 August 2020). "Book review: Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart". The Scotsman.
  28. ^ Lichtig, Toby (11 September 2020). "Glasgow kiss: A love letter to a troubled city in Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart". TLS.
  29. ^ Dasgupta, Shougat (31 October 2020). "A terrible beauty: Review of 'Shuggie Bain' and 'Real Life'". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  30. ^ Ferguson, Brian (19 November 2020). "Booker Prize: Glasgow author Douglas Stuart wins with debut novel Shuggie Bain". The Scotsman. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  31. ^ "Shuggie Bain". Books from Scotland. 13 August 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  32. ^ Carpenter, Caroline (15 September 2020). "Douglas Stuart | 'Representation of the working-class is essential for diversity in literature'". The Bookseller. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  33. ^ Allfree, Claire (15 September 2020). "The Booker Prize has abandoned Britain". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 October 2020.

External links[edit]