Independent presses dominate Jhalak Prize longlist

Independent presses dominate Jhalak Prize longlist

Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Reni Eddo-Lodge are some of the authors in the running for the Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, on a longlist of books published mostly by independent presses.

The line up, revealed on Tuesday (30th January), offers an “exciting snapshot of the incredible array of writers of colour in Britain today”. The £1,000 prize celebrates books by British or British resident BAME writers and consists of fiction, YA, non-fiction, debuts, poetry and short stories.

Faber appears twice on the 12-strong longlist, with John Agard’s picturebook Come All You Little Persons and novel The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam. Accessible children’s publisher Barrington Stoke’s Worry Angels by Sita Brahmachari is also nominated along with non-fiction exploration of race and discrimination, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury Circus), by Eddo-Lodge.

The Girl of Ink & Stars author, Millwood Hargrave, is nominated for her YA historical novel, The Island at the End of Everything (Chicken House), which features alongside short story collection Come Let Us Sing Anyway (Peepal Tree Press) by Leone Ross and Preti Taneja’s Shakespearean re-working, We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press). Meanwhile When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife (Atlantic Books) by Meena Kandaswamy, a novel exploring domestic abuse, is also nominated.

Three books from Penguin Random House have made the cut; one non-fiction title and two poetry collections. They are Xialou Guo's memoir, Once Upon a Time in the East is up against Kayo Chingonyi’s book of poetry, Kumakanda (both published by Chatto & Windus), and Instagram poet's Yrsa Daley-Ward’s Bone (Penguin).

Also longlisted was Jeffrey Boakye for his book Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials and the Meaning of Grime published by indie Influx Press.

The all-female judging panel consists of author and co-founder of the award, Sunny Singh, in the role of chair, YA author Catherine Johnson, novelist Tanya Byrne, multidisciplinary writer and performance maker Vera Chok and travel writer and journalist Noo Saro-Wiwa.

Singh believes the longlist “demonstrates the extraordinary range of themes, ideas and forms from British writers of colour”.

She said: “Once again, the quality of submissions to the Jhalak Prize does not cease to astound me. Last few months have been an incredible journey through beautifully crafted, intellectually challenging and emotionally rich books.”

Fellow judge, Johnson described her role as “an eye opening few months exploring all kinds of genres and so many brilliantly wonderful books”. She said: “I am incredibly proud of our longlist. Here is a round up of very special fiction and poetry for all ages, non-fiction and memoir.”

Byrne revealed that she was “as astonished by the calibre of the books” the panel were sent.

She said: “While it was incredibly hard to pick just 12 for the longlist, it has been an absolute joy to discover so many new voices who I know will go on to do great things.”

Chok said: “An incredible thing about the Jhalak Prize is that it's open across genres. I've been especially delighted to discover writers of colour beyond literary fiction and memoir, making their mark in the fields of non-fiction, children's writing, and experimental forms.”

The award is unique in that it accepts entries published in the UK by writers of colour including fiction, non-fiction, short stories, graphic novels, poetry, children’s books, YA, teen and all other genres. It is also open to self-published writers.

It was started last year by authors Singh, Nikesh Shukla and Media Diversified, with support from The Authors’ Club and funds donated by an anonymous benefactor. It was first awarded in March 2017 to Jacob Ross.

The shortlist will be announced on 20th February and the winner will be announced on 15th March.