Award-winning author Kit de Waa's County Wexford roots.

By Maria Pepper

Kit de Waal.
Kit de Waal.

The debut novelist Kit de Waal who has Wexford family connections, won the €15,000 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year at the 46th annual Listowel Writers' Week with her book 'My Name is Leon'.

Kit, pictured left, aka Mandy Theresa O'Loughlin was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother (Sheila O'Loughlin nee Doyle) and a West Indian father (Arthur Desmond O'Loughlin). Her maternal grandparents came from County Wexford. She is married to John de Waal QC.

She has also been shorlisted for the €10,000 Desmond Elliot Prize, won last year by Lisa McInerney, which will be announced on June 21. Her real name is Mandy Theresa O' Loughlin and she took Kit de Waal as her professional name.

'My Name is Leon' is an emotional but unsentimental story of maternal neglect and social and racial injustice in 1980s Britain, told from the viewpoint of a nine year old boy whose mother is incapable of looking after him and his baby brother. The two boys end up in foster care and are eventually separated. The younger brother who is white is adopted by a family, leaving Leon with his foster mother Maureen. Leon is saved from a life of hurt and bitterness by the kindness of strangers.

The author who worked for 15 years in criminal and family law, also advising Social Services and writing training manuals on adoption and foster care, was presented with her Kerry Group prize by the acclaimed American writer Richard Ford.

The book was chosen as the Listowel winner by a panel of judges who described it as 'a heartfelt, far-sighted andhumane book, shot through with understated grief,necessary humour and a masterly point of view, rendering detail with nuance and accuracy' and said it is 'filled with a passionate rage on behalf of the weak and the broken.'

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