British comedian and author Shappi Khorsandi has withdrawn her book Nina Is Not OK (Ebury) from The Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour longlist because she says it "felt like my skin colour was up for an award rather than my book".
Khorsandi explained on Twitter on Thursday (5th January) that while she was "massively flattered" by her longlisting for the prize, her decision to withdraw was "because my novel is nothing to do with ethnic identity". She added that she felt like her "skin colour was up for an award rather than my book".
The inaugural longlist for the Jhalak Prize was released on Thursday and aims to recognise British writers of colour who are "often ignored, overlooked and erased", as well as inspire publishers within the industry to "look beyond the present narrow margins". Launched by authors Nikesh Shukla and Sunny Singh, the longlist featured books from writers including former children's laureate Malorie Blackman, Guardian journalist Gary Younge and winner of the Telegraph Harvill Secker crime writing competition Abir Mukherjee.
Singh told The Bookseller she was "disappointed" by Khorsandi's decision but "respected" it.
"I can only say that although I am disappointed, I respect her decision," she said. "The Jhalak longlist was compiled with much enthusiasm, love and respect for the extraordinary quality and range of work that was submitted. The judges believe that each of of the books on the longlist is there on literary merit and deserves as wide a readership as possible."
Nina Is Not OK explores issues surrounding sexual consent, as well as heavy drinking, telling the story of a 17-year-old girl who the morning after a Saturday night out with friends can't remember what has happened to her, left only with a deep sense of shame that it was something very bad.
A spokesperson for Khorsandi's publisher Ebury said: "Shappi's decision to withdraw from the longlist is a personal one, which we totally respect."