The victor of this year's Man Booker prize will pay off her debts after scooping the £50,000 award, having struggled financially as a writer.
Her debut, No Bones, was published in 2001, and followed by Little Constructions six years later.
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Appiah said at a ceremony at the Guildhall in London: "It speaks to the future".
The novel chronicles the struggles of a middle sister in a family as she confronts rumour, social pressures and politics amid violent sectarian divisions in her community. "Anna Burns' utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose".
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Appiah said: "Although it's set in the 70s, Milkman is a deep, subtle, unpolemical and intellectually and moral challenging picture of something which is part of the MeToo challenge".
"The book just didn't work with names", she said.
Damian Smyth, Head of Literature at the Arts Council, said: "Milkman is an extraordinary book and is rightly acclaimed as a breathtakingly original novel which is a thrill to read". I think it's going to last.
"I think it's something to do with, there's a lack of safety of being straightforward in the book and declaring who you are, but really, if I put in names it lost power, it lost atmosphere".
The rules for the Man Booker Prize changed in 2014 when American authors were allowed to compete for the award.
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"I saw the girl walking along the street reading Ivanhoe in what looked to me like Belfast".
Appiah, a British-born Ghanaian-American novelist, was joined on the 2018 judging panel by crime writer Val McDermid; cultural critic Leo Robson; feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose; and artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton. I don't think he was anybody's.
Burns is the first writer from the North to win the £50,000 (€57,000) prize, which is open to English-language authors from around the world.
"What I write about is absolutely and essentially interested in how power is used, both in a personal and in a societal sense", Burns said in an interview with The Times Literary Supplement. Three shortlisted books were by United Kingdom authors, two by American authors, and one by a Canadian author.
In the week following the 2017 victor announcement, sales of the winning novel "Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders increased by 1227 percent, and the book has to date sold over 230,000 copies, with 70 percent of those sales coming after the win. Sales of Saunders' novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, increased by more than 1,000 percent, according to an official Man Booker prize press release.
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