Caleb Azumah Nelson’s novel Small Worlds has won the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, given annually to “​​the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.”

The novel, published in the U.S. in 2023 by Grove, tells the story of Stephen, a Ghanaian British man whose world comes apart when he chooses to pursue a career in music rather than go to college. The book is Azumah Nelson’s second, after the 2021 novel Open Water.

Namita Gokhale, the chair of the prize jury, said in a statement, “There is a musicality to Caleb Azumah Nelson’s writing, in a book equally designed to be read quietly and listened aloud.…Emotionally challenging yet exceptionally healing, Small Worlds feels like a balm: honest as it is about the riches and the immense difficulties of living away from your culture.”

And Azumah Nelson said, “I’m deeply grateful to be acknowledged for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize.…My mum, dad, brother and sister—this is for them—and my partner, who shows me what is love. And to the other shortlisted authors—I’m grateful to be on a list with you and your astounding work.”

The Dylan Thomas Prize was established in 2006, and comes with a cash award of £20,000, or about $25,400. Previous winners include Claire Vaye Watkins for Battleborn, Max Porter for Grief is the Thing With Feathers, and Arinze Ifeakandu for God’s Children Are Little Broken Things.

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.