Iranian-born British Comedian Shappi Khorsandi has withdrawn her book from the new British book prize exclusively for writers of color, claiming she “felt like my skin colour was up for an award rather than my book” as her book has “nothing to do with ethnic identity”.
The Jhalak prize for a book of the year was established to award British black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) authors to inspire publishers within the industry to “look beyond the present narrow margins”. The 12-book longlist for the prize was announced on Thursday.
The nominated authors include the former children’s laureate Malorie Blackman for her young adult novel Chasing the Stars, the Guardian columnist Gary Younge for Another Day in the Death of America and the historian David Olusoga for Black and British: A Forgotten History.
According to Sunny Singh, the co-founder of the prize, the longlist demonstrated “the strength, range and promise being produced by writers of color in the UK today”.
Khorsandi, who made the cut in the list for her book Nina Is Not OK, broke the news of her withdrawal on Twitter. She wrote: “Massively flattered, but I have respectfully withdrawn my book from this longlist, despite the incredible company it was in.”
“Because my novel is nothing to do with ethnic identity. Felt like my skin color was up for an award rather than my book,” the author added after being asked why she did that.
On BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Saturday, she explained her decision to withdraw in more detail: “I withdrew it because, even though I was in fine company – that was an incredible list to be amongst, I understand the intention behind it is incredibly well-meaning, but for me it felt unnecessary”.
“I felt that purely based on the accident of my place of birth and my skin color, I was included in a sub-group,” she added after pointing out that her new book has nothing to do with national or ethnic identity.