Irenosen Okojie has been longlisted for the Inaugural Jhalak Prize for her short story collection Speak Gigantular. She joins outstanding writers including David Olusuga, Malorie Blackman, Shapi Khorsandi and Gary Younge.
The Jhalak Prize is a new annual award that seeks to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers, founded by authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla in conjunction with Media Diversified and with support from the Authors’ Club. The winner of the award will receive a £1,000 prize.
The longlist consists of fiction, YA, non-fiction, and short stories and is “an exciting snapshot of the incredible array of writers of colour in Britain at the moment”. The judging panel, chaired by author and co-founder of the award Sunny Singh, includes YA author Catherine Johnson, author and poet Alex Wheatle MBE, poet and broadcaster Musa Okwonga and Booker-longlisted fiction writer Yvvette Edwards.
Speak Gigantular, published in September 2016, is Irenosen’s second book. Her debut novel, Butterfly Fish, won a Betty Trask Award in 2016. In Speak Gigantular the stories are captivating, erotic, enigmatic and disturbing. Irenosen creates worlds where lovelorn aliens abduct innocent coffee shop waitresses, where the London Underground is inhabited by the ghosts of errant Londoners, where insensitive men cheat on their mistresses and where brave young women attempt to be erotically empowered at their own peril. It sizzles with originality. Bernadine Evaristo wrote of the collection: ‘Okojie delves into the painful, the unsayable, the unknowable. Her prose is precise and illuminating… The only predictable thing about these stories is that they are totally unpredictable.‘
The longlisted books are as follows:
• Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman (Doubleday Childrens)
• Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Sceptre)
• Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi (Ebury)
• Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder)
• Augustown by Kei Miller (W&N)
• The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House)
• A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
• Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda)
• Black And British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga (Macmillan)
• In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room: Travels through Indian Medicine by Aarathi Prasad (Profile)
• The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross (Peepal Tree Press)
• Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge (Faber)
Read the judges’ Comments on the longlist:
Sunny Singh (Chair): “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.”
Alex Wheatle MBE: “I thought the quality of the submissions were outstanding and also showed great promise and potential.”
Catherine Johnson: “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.”
Yvvette Edwards: “Every author has earned their place here. Every long-listed 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.”
Musa Okwonga: “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 2017 in March.