Amid all the conversation regarding more coloured representation, there comes good news. Authors Candice Carty-Williams and Bernardine Evaristo have won the Book of the Year and Author of the Year respectively, at the British Book Awards, becoming the first black authors to do so.
Carty-Williams won for Queenie, her debut novel centred on a young black woman in London attempting to make sense of her life and love. According to a report in The Guardian, the author has expressed her gratitude but is also “sad and confused” for being the first black writer to receive the award. “Overall, this win makes me hopeful that although I’m the first, the industry are waking up to the fact that I shouldn’t and won’t be the last,” she was quoted as saying.
Commenting on her work, judge Pandora Sykes said, “The power of Queenie is the way it makes you feel: energised; moved; comforted. It is such an assured and original piece of debut fiction. Weighty issues about identity, race, family, heterosexuality and mental health are distilled into prose which is easily digestible, but extremely impactful.”
Evaristo, on the other hand, won for her novel, Girl, Woman, Other. Last year, she was one of the recipients of the coveted Booker Prize and shared the honour with Margaret Atwood.
“This is such an interesting moment in our cultural history because the Black Lives Matter movement has generated an unprecedented amount of self-interrogating in the publishing industry,” Evaristo was quoted as saying.
“I was already adjusting to seeing my name on the bestseller list for 20 weeks, off and on, but then to hit the top spot and then to realise that I was the first woman of colour to get there since records began, well, it’s a lot to take in. I’ve been writing for a very long time, and it’s incredibly gratifying to know that my work is finally reaching a wider readership. It’s also fantastic to see so many other books by writers of colour storming the charts. I’m pretty sure this is unprecedented. Of course, this has been triggered by the tragedy of George Floyd’s death and we should always remember that,” she added.
The British Book awards are awarded to best UK writers, produced by the Bookseller, the book trade magazine.
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