The Jhalak Prize longlist

A new award celebrating the best book by a writer of colour has announced its longlist. The Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour seeks to champion books by British and British resident BAME writers with the overall winner presented with a prize of £1,000.

The inaugural longlist offers an exciting snapshot of the incredible array of writers of colour in Britain and includes a number of established writers Malorie Blackman and Gary Younge alongside debut novelists, Irenosen Okojie and Abir Mukherjee. The judging panel consisted 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.

The longlisted books are as follows:

Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman (Doubleday Childrens)

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Sceptre)

Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi (Ebury)

Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder)

• Augustown by Kei Miller (W&N)

• 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)

In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room: Travelsthrough Indian Medicine by Aarathi Prasad (Profile)

The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross (Peepal Tree Press)

Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge (Faber)

The prize is unique in that it accepts entries published in the UK by writers of colour. These include 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. Sunny Singh, Chair of Judges said: “It has been an absolute joy and privilege to read through the submissions. The first ever Jhalak Prize longlist demonstrates the strength, range and promise being produced by writers of colour in the UK today.”

Alex Wheatle MBE: “I thought the quality of the submissions were outstanding and also showed great promise and potential.” Catherine Johnson: “It’s taken weeks of dedicated reading, some fierce conversation, and a remarkable amount of consensus, but we’ve produced a longlist that does some justice to the range of brilliant and insightful writing being produced by BAME writers in just one year. Of course there are big names on our list, but there are debuts too, important non-fiction, a title for young readers and some of the best YA published this year. If you’re a reader and want some incredible recommendations, just have a look at this list. Every one of these books is a brilliant experience.”

Yvvette Edwards: “Every author has earned their place here. Every long-listed book has been distilled from a mass of quality submissions. The result is a diverse and distinguished line-up of some of the best, most accomplished and original work published in the UK in 2016.”

Musa Okwonga: “The submissions were of remarkable range and quality, and the long-listed authors have each produced exceptional books. This is easily some of the most compelling work that I have seen in several years.”

Shappi Khorsandi, comedian and author of Nina is Not OK later withdraw from the longlist stating in an interview with Radio 4: ‘Even though I was in fine company – that was an incredible list to be in amongst – and I understand the intention behind it is incredibly well meaning, for me it felt unnecessary and particularly as my book Nina is Not Ok is about a 17-year-old alcoholic. It’s a story about addiction and it’s not a a novel that grapples with national identity or ethnic identity, and it felt that purely based on the accident of my place of birth and my skin colour I was included in a sub-group.”

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 shortlist will be announced on 6th February 2017 and the winner will be announced during Bare Lit Festival 2017.

(image credit: The Bookseller)