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Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi Wins Jhalak Prize 2021 for The First Woman

26th May, 2021

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi has been awarded the Jhalak Prize 2021 for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour for her novel The First Woman.

First awarded in March 2017, the Jhalak Prize seeks to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers.

At the same prize ceremony, Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence wsa announced as the winner of the inaugural Jhalak Children’s and Young Adult Prize.

The director of the prize, 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.”

The judges for the Jhalak Book of the Year for a Writer of Colour 2021 were Yvonne Battle-Fenton, Louise Doughty and Peter Kalu.

Kalu said: “In Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi we have a giant of literature living among us. The First Woman has magnetic, tender, vindictive, generous oh-so-human characters whose journeys through the novel moved me — this block of stone known as me — to tears. Makumbi is a supremely gifted writer and The First Woman an astonishing accomplishment.”

Makumbi commented: “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.”

A huge congratulations to Jennifer and The First Woman!

To find out more about the prize, click here.


The First Woman is out now in hardback, and in paperback in July 2021.

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