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Jennifer N. Makumbi Longlisted for Jhalak Prize 2021

Jennifer N. Makumbi Longlisted for Jhalak Prize 2021


Ugandan writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, author of Kintu and Manchester Happened has been longlsited for the 2021 Jhalak Prize for her sophmore novel The First Woman.

The Jhalak Prize is an annual literary prize for British or British-resident writers of colour established in 2016 and founded by Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla in conjunction with Media Diversified and supported by the Author’s Club. A unique celebration of the rich array of exceptional work from writers of colour, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, short stories, graphic novels or poetry, the prize is also open to self-published writers. A new sister award, the Jhalak Children’s and YA Prize was announced in 2020 with the first award to be made in 2021. Open to a broad church of picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, poetry, or non-fiction, both award £1000 to the winner.

The Prize announced its fifth longlist for the annual prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, as well as its inaugural longlist for the Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize. The longlist announcement also kicks off the fifth anniversary celebrations featuring two new Jhalak Art Residents as well as an array of events in the forthcoming months.

Cutting across fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, the Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year longlist comprises twelve books that engage with complex histories, throw a light on often unseen experiences, and fearlessly confront difficult topics and ideas, and they do so powerfully, subtly and elegantly.

The inaugural Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize twelve book longlist is a revelation with self-published authors vying with established writers. The titles include picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult fiction and cover complex themes ranging from war and liberty to identity and community in nuanced, complex yet playful ways.

The 2021 Longlist for the Jhalak Prize for the Book of the Year is:

  1. Antiemetic for Homesickness, Romalyn Ante (Chatto Poetry)
  2. Inferno, Catherine Cho (Bloomsbury Circus)
  3. [re: desire], Afshan D’souza-Lodhi (Burning Eye Books)
  4. Poor, Caleb Femi (Penguin Poetry)
  5. A More Perfect Union, Tammye Huf (Myriad Editions)
  6. My Darling from the Lions, Rachel Long (Picador Poetry)
  7. The First Woman, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (One World)
  8. The Address Book, Deirdre Mask (Profile Books)
  9. Are We Home Yet?, Katy Massey (Jacaranda)
  10. Rainbow Milk, Paul Mendez (Dialogue)
  11. The Mercies, Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Picador)
  12. What’s Left of Me Is Yours, Stephanie Scott (Weidenfeld & Nicholson)

The longlist for the 2021 Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize is:

  1. Too Small Tola, Atinuke & Onyinye Iwu (Walker)
  2. The GA Picture Alphabet, Nii Ayikwei Parkes & Avril Filomeno (Self-published)
  3. The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, Nizrana Farook (Nosy Crow)
  4. When Life Gives You Mangoes, Kereen Getten (Pushkin Press)
  5. Baby Girl, Emma Hill (Self-published)
  6. And the Stars Were Burning Brightly, Danielle Jawondo (Simon & Schuster)
  7. Queen of Freedom, Catherine Johnson (Pushkin Press)
  8. The Little War Cat, Hiba Noor Khan & Laura Chamberlain (Macmillan Children’s)
  9. Eight Pieces of Silva, Patrice Lawrence (Hachette Children’s)
  10. Mohinder’s War, Bali Rai (Bloomsbury Education)
  11. A Rabbit Called Herbert, Margaret Sturton (Andersen Press)
  12. Cane Warriors, Alex Wheatle (Andersen Press)

Commenting on the longlists, Prize director Sunny Singh said:

“Despite the pandemic and the grim past year, we received a record number of submissions, nearly a third more than in 2020. There are more books by writers of colour being published and more importantly more of these are being published well. Although this is not a moment for complacency, especially since the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities – and writers – of colour, there is much reason to celebrate. And celebrate we must, and shall!”

The shortlist for both awards will be announced on 13 April 2021. The winners will be announced on 25 May 2021 in partnership with the British Library.

The two Jhalak Prize awards celebrate writing by British/British resident BAME writers and annually award £1,000 to two winners. The winners will also receive a unique work of art created for the prize by artists of colour under the Jhalak Art Residency.

Judges for the 2021 Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour are authors Yvonne Battle-Felton, Louise Doughty and Peter Kalu. The inaugural judges for the Children’s & Young Adult Prize are writers Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Candy Gourlay.

The 2020 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour was won by Johny Pitts (Allen Lane) for the genre-defying tour de force Afropean: Notes from Black Europe.

Judges’ Comments on the Longlist for Jhalak Prize for the Book of the Year:

Yvonne Battle-Felton: “Judging the Jhalak Prize has introduced me to works I may not have otherwise read. Imagine! I wouldn’t have met some of the characters, stories, phrases, lines, thoughts, facts, scenes, landscapes, topics, and more that left me—a lover of words—reduced to one: wow. The longlist is a stunning achievement. How did it feel to be a judge for this wonderful prize? Emotionally, I am lit up: filled to the brim with stories, characters, and a range of emotions. One of them is gratitude.”

Louise Doughty: “I’ve been a previous judge for the Booker Prize, the Costa Novel Award, the Desmond Elliot Prize and numerous others, and never have I found it so hard to narrow the entries down to a longlist. The standard was amazingly high and inevitably the personal preferences of the judges had to come into play – but no writer should feel disheartened by missing out in this fifth anniversary year, the competition was fierce.”

Peter Kalu: “Judge Not (that you be not judged). Is a daisy more beautiful than an orchid? This is the task judges are faced with. Did we get it right here? For now, no-one knows. Time will judge the judges. Yet if I fell onto a desert Island and had the Jhalak 2021 Longlist as my only reading, I know I would have a stay filled with wonders, nightmares, speculations, provocations and a beautifully strong sense of what it is to be human and among other humans. I have thoroughly enjoyed the process. Though I’ve twisted and turned these last few nights at some of the amazing books that have been left off. The winner is not among the longlist. The winner is literature itself.”

Judges’ Comments on the Longlist for Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize:

Candy Gourlay: “It was humbling to read this treasure chest of entries, a revelation of talent! Our list puts on display the best an author for children can offer, always perfectly pitched to the young reader, whether an illustrated book to read aloud or a young adult with all the burgeoning emotion that involves. I was especially excited by the untold histories now finding their way into books, the unheard voices singing from their pages.”

Kiran Millwood Hargrave: “Judging any prize is always a mix of joy and touch decisions, and the quality of the entries to the Jhalak CYA Prize this year made it an especially exciting experience. We have settled on a longlist that foregrounds and rewards storytelling in all its forms, from picture books made to be seen and shared aloud, to fantastical, moving middle grade, and YA that grips and confronts. It’s an extraordinary longlist, and I can recommend every book on it with my full and whole heart.”

About the Jhalak Prize 2021:

In addition to the recently announced partnership with National Book Tokens which will help increase awareness and support amongst bookshops for the nominated titles, 2021 also sees the expansion of the annual Jhalak Art Residency. The annual Jhalak Art Resident commissions an artist of colour to create a unique work of art that serves as the trophy for the winner of the Jhalak Book of the Year award. In 2021, the expanded residency will also feature the first ever illustrator to create a unique trophy for the Jhalak Children’s and Young Adult prize. The artist and illustrator selected to create the trophies this year will be announced on 16 March 2021.

Key Dates:

  • The 2021 Jhalak Art Residents selected to create the trophies will be announced on 16 March 2021.
  • The shortlists will be announced on 13 April 2021.
  • The winners will be announced on 25 May 2021 in partnership with the British Library.


Congratulations to the all the longlisted authors from all of us at Literandra!

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