The Jhalak Prize Book of the Year Award is for a book written by a British or British resident writer of colour. The 2022 shortlist will be announced on 19th April and the winner will be announced on 26th May. You can find out more about the Jhalak Prize here.
This year’s longlist is as follows…
As with the Women’s Prize for Fiction, I’m not going to aim to read all the titles on the Jhalak longlist, but I thought it might be good to use the Prize as a reading guide this year, given how disappointing the Women’s Prize continues to be.
My overall thoughts: this list is very heavy on memoir, non-fiction and poetry. This is a bit of a shame for me as a reader, as I tend to gravitate towards novels and short stories, and I don’t think this is always the case with the Jhalak longlist. There’s also a theme of silences and silencing, which is much more my thing. Due to the wide variety of forms on the list, there are fewer books that interest me than if it was just a straight fiction list, but this is no reflection on the quality of the list itself.
The Ones I’ve Read
Arifa Akbar, Consumed. This memoir about the loss of a sister was one of my most anticipated books of 2021, but I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped I would. Akbar writes movingly about the life and death of her sister Fauzia, but for me, memoirs need to really come together thematically, and this felt more like an account of events. I did love the colour plates of Fauzia’s incredible embroidery, which she was working on as part of an art degree.
The Ones I Was Already Planning To Read
Kei Miller, Things I Have Withheld. This collection of essays was one of my most anticipated books of 2022; I liked Miller’s novel Augustown a lot and this promises to explore significant silences, a theme that always interests me.
The Ones I Now Want To Read
Mona Arshi, Somebody Loves You. This debut novel from a well-known poet focuses on a British Indian schoolgirl, Ruby, who gives up talking when she is very young. Told in fragmented, short chapters, it explores Ruby’s experience of growing up and her mother’s mental illness. Also longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. For some reason, I’m always attracted by books where the protagonist does not speak.
Tice Cin, Keeping The House. This sounds GREAT: ‘Ayla’s a gardener, and she has a plan. Offering a fresh and funny take on the machinery of the North London heroin trade, Keeping the House lifts the lid on a covert world thriving just beneath notice: not only in McDonald’s queues and men’s clubs, but in spotless living rooms and whispering kitchens. Spanning three generations, this is the story of the women who keep their family – and their family business – afloat.’
Sabba Khan, The Roles We Play. A graphic memoir about growing up as a second generation Azad Kashmiri migrant in East London. I really like graphic novels and non-fiction, and don’t read enough of them.
Saima Mir, The Khan. This thriller follows Jia Khan, a British-Asian lawyer who’s broken away from her family but is drawn back into a power struggle on the streets after her father, who ran the local organised crime syndicate, is murdered. I’m not sure about this one at all; I generally don’t like books about street gangs or organised crime but I’d be willing to give it a shot.
Nikesh Shukla, Brown Baby. Memoir is a bit hit and miss for me, but I really liked Shukla’s novel The One Who Wrote Destiny and I’d be willing to try this reflection on ‘sexism, feminism, parenting and our shifting ideas of home.’
The Ones I Still Don’t Want To Read
Jeremy Atherton Lin, Gay Bar. A history of the gay bars of London, San Francisco and Los Angeles from the 1990s to the present day. This actually sounds great but it’s one of those unfortunate books that falls between two stools for me: it’s too much like work for me to read it for fun but too distant from what I work on for me to read it for work!
Vahni Capildeo, Like A Tree, Walking. A collection of poetry that ‘draws on Capildeo’s interest in ecopoetics and silence’. I do enjoy reading poetry but I’m unlikely to sit down and read a whole collection.
Kayo Chingoyni, A Blood Condition. Sorry, poetry again, so not for me. This collection ‘follows the course of a ‘blood condition’ as it finds its way to deeply personal grounds. From the banks of the Zambezi river to London and Leeds, these poems speak to how distance and time, nations and history, can collapse within a body.’
Cynthia Miller, Honorifics. More poetry! This debut collection is an ‘exploration of family, Malaysian-Chinese cultural identity, and immigration, from jellyfish blooms to glitch art and distant stars, taking in Greek gods, space shuttles and wedding china along the way’.
Huma Qureshi, Things We Do Not Tell The People We Love. A collection of short stories which focuses on feeling unheard and silenced, with most of the protagonists young women of Pakistani heritage. This sounds like it could get a bit repetitive.
Have you already read anything from the Jhalak longlist? And are there any books here that catch your eye?