The Jhalak Prize announced its inaugural shortlist today. The prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour was described by Chair Sunny Singh as showcasing “the variety, scope, depth, and literary excellence to be found amongst writers of colour in Britain today…”. Judge Musa Okwonga added that, “six books that could not be more different in voice, and which could not be more alike in their excellence”.
This exciting new annual award seeks to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers, and the overall winner will be presented with a prize of £1,000. The shortlist consists of fiction, YA, non-fiction, debuts, short stories and genre.
The judging panel, consisting of acclaimed author and co-founder of the award, Sunny Singh (chair), YA author Catherine Johnson, author and poet Alex Wheatle MBE, poet and broadcaster Musa Okwonga and Booker-longlisted fiction writer Yvvette Edwards, said they struggled to reduce the incredible longlist into six books, but after long debate and re-reading, came up with the six shortlisted books:
- The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House)
- A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
- Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda)
- Black And British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga (Macmillan)
- The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross (Peepal Tree Press)
- Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge (Faber)
The winner will be announced at a special event at The Authors’ Club on 17th March 2017.
The prize is unique in that it accepts entries published in the UK by writers of colour. These include (and are not limited to) fiction, non-fiction, short stories, graphic novels, poetry, children’s books, YA, teen and all other genres. The prize is also open to self-published writers. The aim is to identify, promote and celebrate the best writers of colour in the country.
Judges’ Comments on the Shortlist
Sunny Singh (Chair): “I am very proud to have been part of compiling this shortlist that showcases the variety, scope, depth, and literary excellence to be found amongst writers of colour in Britain today. The diversity of backgrounds, themes, forms and genres are testament to the wide spectrum of great writing being produced in the country.
I am particularly delighted that the shortlist features literary excellence from writers at different stages of their career – there are well-known names and debuts as well as great writers who deserve much more attention, respect and recognition.
Gary Younge, of course, needs little introduction to British readers but his Another Day in the Death of America deserves to be read by everyone. Disturbingly sensitive and moving and profoundly insightful, the book is both timely and timeless, and an absolute must read.
I must say I started Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man with trepidation but was quickly engrossed by the twists and turns of the plot as well as the postcolonial subversion of a beloved genre. That it is a debut makes the confidence, scale and effortless transcending of the genre by this novel even more breath-taking.”
Alex Wheatle MBE: “I believe the longlist and the shortlist confirms the rich talent of Black British Writing in the UK that covers every genre, from postcolonial crime in the subcontinent to the tragedies of gun crime in America. It has been a privilege to judge and I am proud to be part of this great initiative.”
Catherine Johnson: “It has been a massive privilege to be a judge on this first ever Jhalak prize. I am also incredibly proud of this shortlist which spans a range of writing and genre unparalleled by any other. I am going to find it damn near impossible to choose.
David Olusoga’s Black and British is a book I have been waiting for at least twenty years for. It puts us firmly at the heart of this country’s history and makes the facts accessible to as wide an audience as possible. This is a book for every reader.
Jacob Ross is, I believe, one of the most incisive and illuminating writers working in English today. The Bone Readers is a beautifully realised and exquisite crime novel.
And we include a children’s book, how fantastic is that? I believe children’s and young peoples’ literature to be some of the most exciting around and surely cultivating readers of tomorrow is something we all need to be doing. Kiran Millward Hargrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars is a future classic, a gem of a book that takes the reader on an incredible and original adventure.”
Yvvette Edwards: “It has been incredibly difficult whittling what was a phenomenal longlist down to these six outstanding books, all so different in style and scope and genre, each thoroughly deserving of exposure and acclaim. Choosing the prize-winning title from this exceptional shortlist will be tough indeed.”
Musa Okwonga: “This shortlist features six books that could not be more different in voice, and which could not be more alike in their excellence. The first shortlisted book I received was Irenosen Okojie’s Speak Gigantular, whose short stories were replete with ideas and prose of startling brilliance; Okojie set the tone, and I measured everything I read since then against her work. I am pleased to say that the other five contenders stand proudly alongside her, and I expect great difficulty in selecting an overall winner. This has been an exceptional inaugural year for the Jhalak Prize, and it is a privilege to have been a part of the judging process.”
Founded by the authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla in conjunction with Media Diversified, with support from the Authors’ Club and a prize donated by an anonymous benefactor, the award exists to celebrate the achievements of British writers of colour. The winner will be announced at a special event at The Authors’ Club on 17th March 2017. If you have any enquiries about the prize, please contact the Prize Director, Nikesh Shukla, on email@example.com
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