Queenie author Candice Carty-Williams has scooped the prestigious Book of the Year prize at the annual British Book Awards, becoming the first Black author to do so.
Carty-Williams' debut novel, which has sold almost 80,000 copies and is currently being adapted into a TV series for Channel 4, is a warm, witty, thought-provoking story about a young British Jamaican woman navigating a break up and trying to hold on to her career as a culture journalist.
Judge Stig Abell, former editor of the TLS, said of Queenie: “This is a novel of our time, filled with wit, wisdom and urgency; and unafraid to tackle life as it is being experienced by a young, single Black woman in the city. This shouldn’t be filed away as simply a funny debut by a brilliant writer (though it is that); this is an important meditation on friendship, love and race.”
Carty-Williams said of her win: “I don’t quite know how I feel about winning book of the year; I’m proud of myself, yes, and grateful to the incredible team that helped me get Queenie out of my head and onto the shelves. I’m also sad and confused that I’m the first Black and female author to have won this award since it began. 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.
"The last words I wrote in Queenie were 'Black lives matter', and it feels really important to say that again here and say that as part of my acceptance speech because I'm really proud of who I am, and I'm proud of where I've come from and against all the odds, I've managed to get to this place and I just hope that more people like me get to do that."
BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020 👑 And the FIRST Black AUTHOR to win it let alone Black WOMAN since the prize BEGAN in 1994? Sorry for all the caps but what are you telling meee #Nibbies pic.twitter.com/QqUGvfvgxP— Candice Carty-Williams (@CandiceC_W) June 29, 2020
Queenie was also named Debut Book of the Year and in the Book of the Year category, it beat off tough competition from Bernardine Evaristo whose Booker-winning Girl, Woman, Other landed the Fiction prize. Evaristo, who has earned wide praise for her clever, poignant story of inter-connected lives, was also named Author of the Year.
Elsewhere in the virtual ceremony, there were awards for Pinch of Nom, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo and crime novel My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
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