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The Jhalak Prize 2024

By Mythily Merai, Maria Sadek and Grace Briggs-Jones


The Jhalak Prize is an esteemed literary award that celebrates and honours books by British writers of Colour. Established in 2016, the prize was founded by authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla, and Media Diversified to address the lack of diversity in the UK publishing industry and recognise the outstanding contributions of writers of Colour. In addition to the main prize, the Jhalak Prize introduced the Jhalak Children's & Young Adult Prize in 2020.


The Jhalak Prize is awarded annually and its scope includes a wide range of genres including fiction, non-fiction, short stories, graphic novels and poetry. The prize seeks to highlight the richness and diversity of voices within the UK literary scene, showcasing works that may otherwise be overlooked by mainstream awards. Each winner of the prize receives £1,000 along with a distinctive piece of art crafted by artists selected for the annual Jhalak Art Residency.


For the 2024 Jhalak Prize for Children & Young Adults, the judging panel included Anni Domingo, Stella Oni, Denise Saul, Danielle Jawando, J. P. Rose and Rashmi Sirdeshpande. The judges reviewed the submitted works and compiled a longlist followed by a shortlist which was revealed on 2 May. The evaluation criteria focused on the quality of writing, originality and the significance of the work in contributing to the broader cultural conversation.


The shortlisted authors showcased an impressive range of novels that dealt with contemporary issues, were fantasy adventures, historical narratives and deeply personal coming-of-age stories. The shortlisted works were praised for their strong character development, engaging plots and the ability to capture the adolescent experience authentically. Here is a closer look at the remarkable titles that have made it to the shortlist:


The first shortlisted book is Geoffrey Gets the Jitters by Nadia Shireen, published by PRH Children’s. Selected as one of the Sunday Times Best Children’s Books of the Year, this heartwarming story explores different kinds of anxiety children face but in a comforting and soothing way. Rather than trivialise worries, the book showcases how to soothe them using funny pictures and experiences that Geoffrey faces. An incredibly important story for all ages!


Next up we have How to Die Famous by Benjamin Dean, a young adult thriller that has been taking Gen Z by storm. The novel explores the lives of the young, rich and famous by placing them at the centre of a showbiz scandal. For fans of Netflix adaptations and books such as A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and One of Us is Lying, this novel is a must-read.


Safiyyah’s War, a book by Hiba Noor Khan, has also made it to the shortlist. A book full of soul and urgency, this middle-grade story captures the urgency of modern life and examines how empathy and kindness prevail in a tumultuous society. Set in Paris during WWII, the book gives a new perspective on a part of history that is often overlooked and marginalised when the Second World War is taught and is an important novel for all ages.


Nathanael Lessore’s debut Steady for This is next on the shortlist, packed with hilarious wordplay and laugh-out-loud one-liners. This book celebrates teen awkwardness, creativity and pure, silly joy. When Shaun’s livestream goes horribly wrong making him the butt of school jokes, he fears he won’t be able to attend the rap competition that is supposed to put him on the map. But when a new girl moves onto the block, is MC Growls ready to step back up to the mic for his comeback? Filled with heartfelt moments, this is a must-read.


Next on the list is To the Other Side by Erika Meza, a powerful and perceptive tale of two children searching for safety. This picture book not only boasts exquisite illustrations but also delivers impactful storytelling that reflects the experiences of refugees. It serves as a perfect conversation starter about conflict and war, fostering empathy and understanding. With its symbolic and emotional narrative, To the Other Side is a stunningly illustrated book that every parent should have on their must-read list.


Last on the list is Candy Gourlay’s Wild Song, a poignant and powerfully told story set in 1904. Luki, who has lived a tribal life in the mountains of the Philippines, refuses to give up on her dream of becoming a warrior. This compelling narrative is a defiant testament to the importance of independence and challenging restrictive norms. Wild Song is a beautiful coming-of-age tale that intricately weaves through Philippine history, making it a wonderful novel for young adults.


A big congratulations to all the authors who have found themselves on the shortlist. The competition was definitely high this year and a huge congratulations to the winner, Yepoka Yeebo who prevailed over the competition and is a worthy winner of the 2024 prize.


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