Indies strong on first Jhalak Prize shortlist

Indies strong on first Jhalak Prize shortlist

Titles from independents Faber, Peepal Tree Press, Chicken House and Jacaranda feature on the inaugural shortlist for the Jhalak Prize for a Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, alongside works from PRH's Harvill Secker and Pan Macmillan.

Described by chair of judges Sunny Singh as showcasing “the variety, scope, depth, and literary excellence to be found amongst writers of colour in Britain today,” the shortlist consists of fiction, YA, non-fiction, debuts and short stories.

The shortlisted Faber title comes from Guardian writer Gary Younge for his "disturbingly sensitive and profoundly insightful" Another Day In The Death Of America (Faber), a book which shines a light on 10 young lives lost to gun violence. Chicken House author Kiran Millwood Hargrave is shortlisted for her YA novel The Girl Of Ink And Stars, "a gem of a book that takes the reader on an incredible and original adventure”, according to judge Catherine Johnson. From Jacaranda Books is Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda), a short story collection "replete with ideas and prose of startling brilliance", and from Peepal Tree Press is Jacob Ross's The Bone Readers, a "beautifully realised and exquisite" crime novel which mixes the traditions of crime fiction with that of the Caribbean novel has also been shortlisted.

Harvill Secker's Abit Mukherjee is recognised for the "breathtaking" A Rising Man, winner of the Harvill Secker/Daily Telegraph crime writing competition while Macmillan's historian and broadcaster David Olusoga has been shortlisted for Black And British: A Forgotten History (Macmillan) that was published to accompany the BBC Two series of the same name.

The prize was launched last year to honour British writers of colour who were "often ignored, overlooked and erased", said Singh. It is run in conjunction with Media Diversified, with support from the Authors’ Club. The £1,000 prize has been donated by an anonymous benefactor.

The judging panel comprises author and co-founder of the award Sunny Singh in the role of chair, YA author Catherine Johnson, author and poet Alex Wheatle MBE, poet and broadcaster Musa Okwonga and Booker-longlisted fiction writer Yvvette Edwards.

Singh said: “I am very proud to have been part of compiling this shortlist that showcases the variety, scope, depth, and literary excellence to be found amongst writers of colour in Britain today. The diversity of backgrounds, themes, forms and genres are testament to the wide spectrum of great writing being produced in the country. I am particularly delighted that the shortlist features literary excellence from writers at different stages of their career - there are well-known names and debuts as well as great writers who deserve much more attention, respect and recognition."

Johnson said: “It has been a massive privilege to be a judge on this first ever Jhalak prize. I am also incredibly proud of this shortlist which spans a range of writing and genre unparalleled by any other. I am going to find it damn near impossible to choose.

The winner will be announced at an event at The Authors’ Club on 17th March 2017.

In January, writer Shappi Khorsandi withdrew her novel Nina is Not OK (Ebury) from the prize longlist, saying she made the move because her novel was nothing to do with ethnic identity.