Today, we announce the winner of the first ever Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour.
jhalak4Jacob Ross, novelist, short story writer and tutor, wins the £1000 prize with his first foray into crime fiction, The Bone Readers. The book, described by judge Musa Okwonga as ‘by turns thrilling, visceral and meditative, and always cinematic’, is the first in the Camaho Quartet and set on the small Caribbean island of Camaho.

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, chose Jacob’s book in a close contest and after much heated discussion. Chair Sunny Singh described it as ‘breath-taking, thought-provoking and…brilliant read’. Catherine Johnson added that it ‘effortlessly draws together the past and the present, gender, politics and the legacy of colonialism in a top quality Caribbean set crime thriller’.

The Shortlistjhalak3

• 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 was announced at a special event at The Authors’ Club on 17th March 2017.

The Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour is a new annual award seeks to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers, and the overall winner is presented with a prize of £1,000.

The shortlist consisted of fiction, YA, non-fiction, debuts, short stories and genre. 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 Winner

Sunny Singh (Chair): “The final decision was very difficult and very close. The entire bone readers banner 2shortlist is so extraordinary that any and all of them are deserving winners. For me Jacob Ross’s The Bone Readers stood out not only as an exemplar of the genre but for rising well above it. The book engages – and with a masterly, feather light touch – with history as well as contemporary politics of the Caribbean. Complex issues of memory, identity and, individual and collective sense of self, are stunningly woven into this beautifully written novel. As the first of the Camaho Quartet, it hints at the expanse and scale of the forthcoming books. But it also stands alone as a breath-taking, thoughtprovoking, and yes brilliant read. I know this is a book I shall go back to again and again.”

Catherine Johnson: “Ross’s novel is one that effortlessly draws together the past and the present, gender, politics and the legacy of colonialism in a top quality Caribbean set crime thriller. The Bone Reader is a wonderful read and a massively worthy winner.

Musa Okwonga: “This was an exceptional shortlist, with every book a worthy winner in its own way. Irenosen Okojie’s work has a staggering fearlessness. Gary Younge provided a forensic yet deeply tender dissection of American society. David Olusoga produced a magisterial text that should be a staple of every school syllabus. Abir Mukherjee wrote a murder-mystery of remarkable scope, while Kiran Millwood Hargrave gave us a magical tale that was beguiling and heartbreaking. The overall winner, Jacob Ross, has written a novel that was by turns thrilling, visceral and meditative, and always cinematic. Each author should be proud, and we are privileged to have judged their work.”

Alex Wheatle: “2016 was a stellar year for BAME writing across many genres. Any of the shortlist would have been a worthy winner. Jacob Ross has been producing intelligent, compelling, original work for many years now and I hope he will now find a wider audience that his writing so richly deserves.”

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 was 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

Jacob Ross 3Biography Jacob Ross (winner) Jacob Ross is a novelist, short story writer, editor and creative writing tutor. His novel Pynter Bender was published to much critical literary acclaim and was shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Regional Prize. Jacob is also the author of two short story collections, Song for Simone and A Way to Catch the Dust, and the editor of Closure, Contemporary Black British shortstories. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been a judge of the V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize, the Olive Cook, Scott Moncrieff and Tom-Gallon Literary Awards. Jacob Ross’s latest book, The Bone Readers, marks a new departure into crime fiction, and is the first in his Camaho Quartet.

Key Dates

Judges’ announcement: 1st August 2016

Submission window: 1st September 2016-30th November 2016

Longlist announcement: 10th January 2017

Shortlist announcement: 6th February 2017

Winner announcement: 17th March 2017

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