Journalist and film-maker Guy Gunaratne has won the £1,000 Jhalak Prize for his debut novel, In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder).
The book was unanimously chosen as the winner by the judging panel which included playwright and poet Sabrina Mahfouz, journalist and editor Sarah Shaffi, poet and producer Siana Bangura, and author Anna Perera, "after much discussion and in a very close contest", a prize organiser said.
Gunaratne’s debut, which has sold 4,780 copies across all editions according to Nielsen BookScan, spans 48 hours on a London council estate as unrest grips the city following murder of a British soldier. “Unflinching and courageous, the novel weaves a rich, nuanced tapestry of fears and differences, loves and loyalties, and marks the arrival of a powerful new chronicler of London,” said prize organisers.
Shaffi applauded the journalist and film-maker’s ability to “combine realistic characters, brilliant voices and stunning writing, resulting in a novel that is a joy to read”. She added: “Guy’s book stands up to multiple rereads – the emotions I felt on going back to the novel were as strong as the first time I read it.”
Bangura said: “Guy’s book is part of a growing alternative canon of classics – timely, important, accessible and destined to be influential. The book’s beating heart is youthful, millennial, and it is multi-hyphenated and multi-layered, like the characters bursting through its pages.”
Gunaratne beat five other books to the £1,000 prize, revealed at an event at The Authors’ Club in London on Wednesday (1st May). These included two Bloomsbury titles Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures by Roma Agrawal and Aminatta Forna’s Happiness. Akala's Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of the Empire (Two Roads), The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus (Penned in the Margins) and The Boy At The Back of The Class (Hachette Childrens) by Onjali Q Rauf completed the shortlist.
Gunaratne also received a trophy as part of his prize, designed for the Jhalak Prize by artist and writer Tashmia Owen.
Now in its third year, the Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour is an annual award that seeks to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers. It was launched by authors Sunny Singh, Nikesh Shukla and the charity Media Diversified, with support from The Authors’ Club and funds donated by an anonymous benefactor, to celebrate the achievements of British writers of colour.
Gunaratne grew up in North West London and now lives between London, UK and Malmö, Sweden. He has worked as a journalist and documentary filmmaker covering human rights stories around the world.