Jhalak Prize launches new award for children’s and YA

Jhalak Prize launches new award for children’s and YA

The Jhalak Prize, which annually awards the Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, has launched a new, second prize for books by children and young adults.

Both prizes open for submissions for its 2021 award today (15th September), with the inaugural Jhalak Children’s and YA Prize inviting books for children and young adults written by British or British resident BAME writers.

Like the Jhalak Prize, the Jhalak Children’s and YA Prize will award one winner £1,000, as well as a unique work of art created by an illustrator of colour under the expanded Jhalak Art Residency.

The new prize was developed in consultation with "pioneers of research into the lack of diversity" in children's and YA publishing as well as experienced writers across the genres.

The second Reflecting Realities report by CLPE noted that in 2018 only 4% of children’s books published in the UK had a minority ethnic hero. The survey included all new books for children aged between three and 11. By way of contrast, the percentage of minority ethnic pupils at UK schools currently stands at 33.1%. Commenting on such statistics, the prize said it was also important to recognise that these are books featuring characters of colour and not by writers of colour. According to Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold's 2017 report for the BookTrust, between 2007 and 2017, less than 2% of creators of children’s books were British people of colour.

Sunny Singh, prize co-founder and director, said: "For the past five years, the Jhalak Prize has been focussed on building and celebrating our community of writers of colour in the UK. 2020 has brought us unprecedented challenges but we have also found ever greater solidarity, support and hope in our community. In addition to the Jhalak Children’s and YA Prize, we have a host of new initiatives planned, all focussed on boosting writers of colour, through out the year and we look forward to sharing them with our community in the upcoming months."

Judging 2021's Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour will be authors Yvonne Battle-Felton, Louise Doughty and Peter Kalu, while the inaugural judging panel for the Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize comprises Verna Allette Wilkins (pictured), author of 30 picture books and biographies for young people, some of which have featured on the National Curriculum and BBC children's television, alongside writers Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Candy Gourlay. 

"All judges bring a range of incredible knowledge, expertise and insight as well as their own varied literary output to the judging panel," the prize said. "They embody—in themselves, their support for fellow writers and their work—not only literary quality but also the ethos of the Jhalak Prize."

Both prizes "seek out the best of literary production by British/British resident BAME writers" and are now open for submissions until 15th December 2020. They are for books published between 1st January 2020 and 31st December 2020, published originally in English and in the UK in that year, by an author resident in the UK for a minimum of the calendar year in which the book is eligible.

The longlists will be announced on 9th March 2021, the shortlists on 13th April 2021 and the winners on 25th May 2021.

The Jhalak Prize was founded four years ago by authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla, with the prize confirmed as having secured funding until 2025. The 2020 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour was won by Johny Pitts for Afropean: Notes from Black Europe (Allen Lane). Previous winners include Jacob Ross for The Bone Readers (Peepal Tree), Reni Eddo-Lodge for her non-fiction debut Why I am No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury) and Guy Gunaratne for his novel In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press).