The Jhalak Prize


The Jhalak Prize For Book Of The Year By A Writer Of Colour

Awarded annually, this prize will seek out the best books by British/British resident BAME writers and award one winner £1,000.

The prize is unique in that it will be accepting entries published in the UK in 2016 by a writer of colour. This will include (and not be limited to) fiction, non-fiction, short story, graphic novel, poetry, children’s books, YA, teen and all genres. The prize will also be open to self-published writers. The aim is the find the best writers of colour in the country.

Started by authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla and Media Diversified, with support from The Authors’ Club and a prize donated by an anonymous benefactor the prize exists, to celebrate the achievements of British writers of colour. That we live in a mono-cultural literary landscape has been proven time and again, with the Writing The Future report, commissioned by Spread The Word, the backlash following last year’s all-white World Book Night booklist and frustrations echoed by writers of colour who feel that their work is often marginalised unless it fulfils a romantic fetishisation of their cultural heritage.

There is a business case for having more writers of colour on our bookshelves. According to Spread The Word’s report, BAME communities represent £300million’s worth of disposable income. This prize will, at its core, not be celebrated for the diverse list of books it will choose to honour. Because diversity will be at its core.

The prize will be open for submissions between 1st September 2016 and 30th November 2016 for books published between 1st January 2016 and 31st December 2016. The books must have been published in the UK in that year, and originally published in English. The author of the work must have been resident in the UK for a minimum of the calendar year in which the book is eligible.

If you have any enquiries about the prize, please contact the Prize Director, Nikesh Shukla on

Submissions for the Jhalak Prize are now open. More info here

The judging panel will be chaired by the acclaimed author and co-founder of the award, Sunny Singh. Joining Sunny on the panel are the [1] YA author Catherine Johnson, the author and poet Alex Wheatle MBE, the poet and broadcaster Musa Okwonga and Booker-longlisted fiction writer Yvvette Edwards.


‘When the marginalised demand structural change, our demands are fobbed off with being told to ‘do something for ourselves.’ The Jhalak Prize is precisely ‘doing something.’ The prize will recognize, reward and honour literary talent and achievement by British writers of colour who are often ignored, overlooked and erased. I hope it not only stops the patronizing suggestions that we aren’t taking action but also inspire the publishing industry to look beyond the present narrow margins.’ Sunny Singh, Author, Chair Of Judges

‘Given that the response to calls for equality and diversity, as echoed by Kristen Stewart in the run-up to the Oscars, patronisingly tell us to get up and do something, here we are, a group of like-minded souls, doing something. I’m sick of being interviewed about inclusion, doing panels about inclusion, tweeting hot takes about inclusion. This is me doing something. And I’m glad to be working with the excellent Media Diversified, which is one of the internet’s best resources for a diverse group of writers who don’t just write about race. We can do other things.’ Nikesh Shukla, Author, Prize Director

Musa said: “This award is vital, as it will help us to find writers of the highest quality from a range of backgrounds currently under-represented in the publishing industry. It will be an honour and privilege to act as a judge; and, given what I’m about to read, it will also be a joy.”

Catherine said: “Prizes can be incredibly valuable for readers and writers. I think the Jhalak Prize has been a long time coming and I am so looking forward to help shine some seriously fierce light on some great new writing.”

Yvette said: “Amidst current discussions around how exactly we go about tackling the lack of diversity in publishing, I am absolutely thrilled to have been invited to join the panel that will be judging the inaugural Jhalak Prize, and excited to play my part in raising the profiles of writers of colour. I will be seeking to identify the most dynamic and engaging writing across the genres that is in itself worthy of attention, promotion and readership. I am passionate about writing that is original and accessible, likely to stand the test of time, and that readers will not only want to read, but wholeheartedly recommend afterwards.”

Alex said: ‘I’m just so proud to be a part of the Jhalak Prize initiative and I’m really looking forward to reading what great BAME talent is out there…”

‘Working on Bare Lit festival has shown me how much both writers and audiences want to see more representative literature. The Jhalak Prize will help shine a light on the great British writing talent we’ve been missing out on.’ Henna Zamurd-Butt, Media Diversified

‘The Authors’ Club has, since our inception in 1891, been a home for morally, socially and politically engaged literature. As such, we are privileged and delighted to support the newly instituted Jhalak Prize.’ The Authors’ Club

‘In Hindi and many related Northern Indian dialects, Jhalak means ‘glimpse’; implicitly brief, often tantalising with promise, piquing curiosity to explore further. It seems an appropriate name for what I believe is the first prize for Book Of The Year By A Writer of Colour.

The Jhalak Prize will recognise the vastness of talent, ambition and creative vigour that is often overlooked by an industry that has yet to decolonize its gaze and acknowledge that we do not live in world of lactified centres and rainbow peripheries. It is very fitting that this prize is being instituted in the same year that Bare Lit Festival kicks off.’ From the benefactor providing the prize money, who wishes to remain anonymous



Sunny Singh

Sunny Singh is a London based writer. She has published three novels, a non-fiction book on lives of single women in India, numerous short stories & essays. Her most recent novel is Hotel Arcadia (2015).

Nikesh Shukla

Nikesh Shukla is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Meatspace, the Costa shortlisted novel Coconut Unlimited. He is the editor of forthcoming anthology, The Good Immigrant.

The Authors’ Club

Founded by the novelist and critic Walter Besant in 1891 as a place where writers could meet and talk, the Authors’ Club also welcomes publishers, editors, agents, journalists, academics and anyone professionally involved with literature. The Club awards three annual literary prizes: the Best First Novel Award, the Stanford-Dolman Travel Book of the Year, and the Art Book Prize for the best book on art or architecture.

Media Diversified

Media Diversified is a young and growing non-profit organisation which seeks to cultivate and promote skilled writers of colour by providing advice and contacts and by promoting content online through its own platform.



Is this prize racist? How would you feel about a prize for only white authors?

No. Ultimately, we have chosen to put our time and money and resources into this prize, highlighting this inequality, redressing this particular imbalance, confronting this lack of representation. This prize is about celebrating marginalised writers, not excluding overrepresented ones. If you feel you want to put together a prize for only white writers, put your time money and resources into setting one up and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.

What exactly is a writer of colour? How do I know if I/my author is one?

Person of colour is a term used to describe any person who is not white. The term encompasses all non-white groups, emphasising common experiences of racism. It typically refers to individuals of non-Caucasian heritage.

I am a self-published author. Can I enter?

Of course. Look out for submission guidelines later on in the year.

My author is a writer of colour but they don’t live in the UK. Can they still enter?

No. This country has a bad track record of nurturing homegrown talent. This prize is for British citizens or British residents. We’re hoping to highlight the need for more British writers of colour to be published in this country.

My book is digital only. Does that matter?

No. Our judges will be accepting submissions both digitally and physically.

How many submissions can we enter?

There is no limit on how many submissions a publisher can make as long as all submitted books meet the criteria.

What are the key dates?

Judging panel announcement: 1st August 2016

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

Shortlist announcement: 30th January 2017

Winner announcement: February 2017 (exact date tbc but will coincide with BareLit 2017)