Blackman and Younge feature on inaugural Jhalak Prize longlist

Blackman and Younge feature on inaugural Jhalak Prize longlist

The Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour has announced its inaugural longlist, recognising authors including Malorie Blackman, Gary Younge and Abir Mukherjee.

Spanning fiction, YA, non-fiction, debuts, short stories and genre, the longlist for the new annual award to celebrate books by British BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) writers, proves "the strength, range and promise being produced by writers of colour in the UK today", according to author Sunny Singh, who co-founded the prize with fellow author Nikesh Shukla.

Three authors featured on the longlist are published by Penguin Random House - former children's laureate Blackman, who is longlisted for Chasing the Stars (Doubleday Childrens), a love story inspired by Shakespeare’s Othello, set in space; Iranian-born comedian Shappi Khorsandi, who tackles the issue of consent in her book Nina Is Not OK (Ebury); and Mukherjee, who is recognised for A Rising Man (Harvill Secker), winner of the Harvill Secker/Daily Telegraph crime writing competition.

From Hachette's stable, Hisayo Buchanan, who is British, Japanese, Chinese and American, is longlisted for her debut novel, Harmless Like You (Sceptre). The book straddles settings in New York, Berlin and Connecticut, as well as the late 1960s and the modern day, following the stories of an aspiring Japanese artist, Yuki Oyama, and the son she abandoned. Patrice Lawrence was longlisted for Costa-shortlisted coming-of-age urban thriller, Orangeboy (Hodder) and Kei Miller for Augustown (W&N) set in the backlands of Jamaica.

Published by independent houses are Kiran Millwood Hargrave, who is longlisted for The Girl Of Ink And Stars (Chicken House), a tale of myth, magic and monsters; curator and arts project manager Irenosen Okojie for her short story collection Speak Gigantular (Jacaranda); Jacob Ross for The Bone Readers (Peepal Tree Press), a novel mixing the traditions of crime fiction with that of the Caribbean novel; award-winning Guardian writer Younge for Another Day In The Death Of America (Faber), shining a spotlight on 10 young lives lost to gun violence; and Aarathi Prasad for In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room: Travels through Indian Medicine (Profile), a non-fiction title exploring how Indian medicine came to be the way it is.

Also in non-fiction, and for Macmillan, historian and broadcater David Olusoga is recognised for Black And British: A Forgotten History (Macmillan) that was published to accompany the BBC Two series of the same name.

The prize, which aims to champion publishing in the UK by writers of colour, accepts submissions in (but are not limited to) 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 prize 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 and with support from the Authors’ Club and a prize donated by an anonymous benefactor to celebrate the achievements of British writers of colour.

The overall winner will be awarded a prize of £1,000. 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, who is also chair of the prize, commented: “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.”

Wheatle MBE called the quality of the submissions "outstanding" to which Edwards added: “Every author has earned their place here. Every longlisted 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.”

Johnson said: “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.”

Okwonga added: “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."

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