Duck Feet from Ely Percy, who had to relearn to read and write after suffering a brain injury at the age of 14, has been named the overall winner of Scotland’s National Book Awards.
Located in Percy’s home Renfrewshire, it was named best book of fiction, as well as “Scotland Book of the Year” at the Saltire Society’s online awards ceremony on Saturday.
The event saw poet, editor and critic Douglas Dunn – another writer from Renfrewshire – honored with an Award of Excellence for his contribution to Scottish literature.
Percy’s Book follows 12-year-old Kirsty Campbell and her friends as they navigate life in grades one through six.
Described as “a celebration of youth in an ever-changing world,” Percy’s novel uses humor to tackle hard-hitting topics such as drugs, bullying, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy.
Percy, whose debut novel Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz was published in 2019, previously wrote a memoir recalling the impact of the teenage accident that “destroyed” childhood memories.
Percy started writing some of the stories for Duck Feet, which was shortlisted for Best Book at the Scottish Language Awards earlier this year, in 2004.
Percy’s editors, Monstrous Regiment, hailed Duck Feet as “an accessible and accessible portrayal for discovering who you are, delving into the currents of life and, most importantly, finding hope.”
A review of Duck Feet described Percy’s book as “a labor of love, a coming of age, and a warm and witty celebration of working class life and culture in the West. of Scotland ”.
The book award judges said of Percy’s winning novel: “Duckfoot is a rare thing in contemporary literature – a novel full of heart and humor that is also a feat of language and style.
“A teenage micro-landscape masterfully painted in Scottish, it nevertheless speaks to the universal.
“It delighted the jury and we have no doubt it will enchant the world.” Percy had faced There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F Ross, Suggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan and Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes for best fiction book award.
In an interview this year, Percy said of Duck Feet, “I’m from Renfrew and grew up on the same street as Kirsty. I just chose where I knew and thought I wanted to write about our city and where I’m from and the people I knew because I didn’t see them reflected in the literature.
Dunn said of his honor: “Old or older writers do not expect prizes or awards. They tend to believe that they are meant for young writers or those in their mid-career. Which is as it should be. This price is therefore, for me, a very pleasant surprise.
Roddy Muray won the Best First Prize for his comedy Bleak, which traces his upbringing on the Isle of Lewis, and his studies in Aberdeen and Glasgow, where he founded a punk band with Peter Capaldi.
A Tomb With a View, Peter Ross’s exploration of “graveyard stories and glories,” was named best non-fiction book, while Daisy Lafarge took home the best book of poetry award for Life Without Air.