Authors launch prize for 'marginalised' BAME writers

Authors launch prize for 'marginalised' BAME writers

Authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla have launched a prize to seek out the best books by British writers of colour in partnership with non-profit organisation Media Diversified.

The annual £1,000 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour intends to "celebrate the achievements of British writers of colour" and will be accepting entries published in the UK in 2016 across all genres, including fiction, non-fiction, short story, graphic novels, poetry, children’s books and YA. The prize will also be open to self-published writers.

Singh and Shukla said: "That we live in a mono-cultural literary landscape has been proven time and again, with the Writing The Future report, commissioned by Spread The Word, the backlash following last year's all-white World Book Night booklist and frustrations echoed by writers of colour who feel that their work is often marginalised unless it fulfils a romantic fetishisation of their cultural heritage.

"There is a business case for having more writers of colour on our bookshelves. According to Spread The Word's report, BAME communities represent £300m worth of disposable income. This prize will, at its core, not be celebrated for the diverse list of books it will choose to honour, because diversity will be at its core."

Chair of judges Singh said: “'When the marginalised demand structural change, our demands are fobbed off with being told to 'do something for ourselves.' The Jhalak Prize is precisely 'doing something.' The prize will recognise, reward and honour literary talent and achievement by British writers of colour who are often ignored, overlooked and erased. I hope it not only stops the patronising suggestions that we aren't taking action but also inspires the publishing industry to look beyond the present narrow margins.”

The prize is supported by The Author’s Club and the prize money donated by an anonymous benefactor.

The anonymous benefactor said: "In Hindi and many related Northern Indian dialects, Jhalak means 'glimpse'; implicitly brief, often tantalising with promise, piquing curiosity to explore further. It seems an appropriate name for what I believe is the first prize for Book Of The Year By A Writer of Colour. The Jhalak Prize will recognise the vastness of talent, ambition and creative vigour that is often overlooked by an industry that has yet to decolonize its gaze and acknowledge that we do not live in world of lactified centres and rainbow peripheries. It is very fitting that this prize is being instituted in the same year that Bare Lit Festival kicks off."

The prize will be open for submissions between 1st September 2016 and 30th November 2016 for books published in the UK between 1st January 2016 and 31st December 2016. The books must have originally been published in English and the author of the work must have been resident in the UK for a minimum of the calendar year in which the book is eligible.

The full judging panel will be announced in Summer 2016 and will comprise authors, journalists, broadcasters of colour.

For enquiries about the prize, contact the prize director, Nikesh Shukla on nikesh@mediadiversified.org.

Singh has published three novels, Hotel Arcadia (Quartet Books), With Krishna's Eyes (Rupa & Co) and Nani's Book of Suicides (HarperCollins India).

Shukla is the author of Meatspace (The Friday Project), Coconut Unlimited (Quartet Books), and editor of forthcoming anthology The Good Immigrant (Unbound).

Last year, The Reading Agency received criticism about the lack of ethnic diversity among authors chosen for its World Book Night 2016 list, because none of the 15 authors chosen were Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME).