Claremorris native and author Elizabeth Reapy has won the €10,000 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature 2017 for her debut novel Red Dirt. Red Dirt was published in June 2016 by Head of Zeus. The story takes place in Australia, telling the tales of three young Irish migrants escaping the collapsing economy at home. Surrounded by cheap drink and drugs, they make dangerous and impulsive choices — finding themselves in unfathomable situations.
Elizabeth Reapy has a BA in English literature and history from NUI Galway, a diploma in education from University College Cork, and an MA in creative writing from Queen’s University Belfast. The €10,000 prize is awarded for a body of work by a young Irish writer that shows exceptional promise. The event this year, while awarding Elizabeth, also paid tribute to its benefactors, Dan and Patricia Rooney. Dan Rooney, a former US ambassador to Ireland, died this year.
Literary agent Jonathan Williams, chair of the selection committee for the award, said: “Red Dirt is timely in its subject matter – the migration of Ireland’s young generation — inventively narrated in three voices, and displays a sure-footed mastery of the novel form.”
The novel also won the Newcomer of the Year at the 2016 Irish Book Awards. The Irish Times review said: “Red Dirt takes the modern Irish immigrant experience and turns it into a thought-provoking, vibrant, novel that grips the reader from the start.”