Novelist and short story writer, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Young Adult author, Patrice Lawrence, have both won 2021 Jhalak Prize awards.

During the virtual Jhalak Awards ceremony on 25 May, both winners, who already had several previous awards, were celebrated for their ‘towering literary achievements’ and works that ‘celebrate our shared humanity’.

Jhalak Prize 2021 winners book covers: The First Woman (BOTY) and Eight Pieces of Silva (C_YA)

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and 2018 winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction) received the fifth Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour for her ‘magnetic’ and ‘extraordinary’ novel, The First Woman.

Winning the inaugural Jhalak Children’s and Young Adult Prize was Patrice Lawrence, who also has accolades including winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and YA Book Prize. She nabbed her award for her ’richly textured’ and ‘unapologetic celebration of teen culture’ in Eight Pieces of Silva.

Jhalak Prize
Jennifer Makumbi: Image credit: Danny Moran

Established in 2016, the Jhalak Prize is an annual literary prize for British or British-resident writers of colour. Founded by Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla in conjunction with Media Diversified and supported by the Author’s Club, the awards celebrate the rich array of exceptional work from writers of colour, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, short stories, graphic novels or poetry. Self-published writers are also invited to nominate their works. All winners receive £1,000.

Previous winners include Reni Eddo-Lodge for Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (2018) and last year’ winner Johny Pitts for Afropean: Notes from Black Europe.

This year also saw the first Jhalak Children’s and YA Prize awarded, following the creation of the new category last year.

Speaking about the winners, Prize Director, Sunny Singh said: “The 2021 Jhalak judges have picked two books that are towering literary achievements, full of authorly courage, stylistic panache and great heart. Patrice Lawrence’s Eight Pieces of Silva and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s The First Woman are very different books in terms of readers they address, the styles they develop and themes they explore but they both confront terrible realities, ask painful questions and experiment playfully with form, style and language.

“Most of all, they both find strength, compassion and resilience in places and times where these seem entirely impossible. In their complex, nuanced explorations of the human experience, Lawrence and Makumbi both find hope, joy and reasons to cherish and celebrate our shared humanity.”

Jhalak Prize
Patrice Lawrence, author of Eight Pieces of Silva

Both winners were thrilled at winning their awards. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, said: “Winning the Jhalak Prize, which recognises the best work by writers of colour in Britain, is a marvellous stamp of approval. I am grateful to the judges, to the team at Oneworld, but most of all, to Sunny Singh, Nikesh Shukla and Media Diversified for creating this award.”

Patrice Lawrence said: “I am so surprised, joyful and downright grateful that Eight Pieces of Silva has been awarded the inaugural Jhalak Children’s and Young Adult Prize amongst such wonderful competition. I can’t stop smiling knowing that a book starring a Black, working class, proudly out lesbian (and K-Pop fan) connects with so many people.”


Check out the Jhalak Awards shortlists

Jhalak Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour 2021 Shortlist in full:

Antiemetic for Homesickness, Romalyn Ante (Chatto Poetry)

Inferno, Catherine Cho (Bloomsbury Circus)

My Darling From the Lions, Rachel Long (Picador Poetry)

The First Woman, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Oneworld) – WINNER

Are We Home Yet, Katy Massey (Jacaranda)

Rainbow Milk, Paul Mendez (Dialogue)


The Jhalak Children’s & Young Adult Prize 2021 Shortlist:

The GA Picture Alphabet, Nii Ayikwei Parkes & Avril Filomeno (Self-published)

When Life Gives You Mangoes, Kereen Getten (Pushkin Press)

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly, Danielle Jawando (Simon & Schuster)

Queen of Freedom, Catherine Johnson (Pushkin Press)

Eight Pieces of Silva, Patrice Lawrence (Hachette Children’s) – WINNER

A Fox Called Herbert, Margaret Sturton (Andersen Press)


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