Reni Eddo-Lodge wins Jhalak prize for British writers of colour

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race praised for ‘holding up a mirror to contemporary Britain’

Reni Eddo-Lodge has won the Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour. Her book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, was praised by judges as a “clarion call for action”, which “not only holds up a mirror to contemporary Britain but also serves as a warning”.

Eddo-Lodge’s collection of essays began as a blogpost of the same title in 2014. Opening with her statement: “I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race,” Eddo-Lodge wrote she could “no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates our experiences. You can see their eyes shut down and harden. It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals like they can no longer hear us.”

After the blog went viral, Eddo-Lodge spent five years writing the book about “not just the explicit side, but also the slippery side of racism – the bits that are hard to define, and the bits that make you doubt yourself”. Britain, she wrote, “is still profoundly uncomfortable with race and difference”.

The Jhalak prize, for the best book by a British or British-resident black, Asian or minority-ethnic author, was set up in 2016 by novelists Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla, and Media Diversified. Support comes from the Authors’ Club, and funds donated by an anonymous benefactor, to “identify, promote and celebrate the best writers of colour in the country”. It came in the wake of a report, Writing the Future, which found that ethnic-minority writers were being shoehorned into writing fiction conforming to a stereotypical view of their communities.

Judge and author, Tanya Byrne, described Eddo-Lodge’s book as “a force for real change. It has resonated with so many people, not just here in the UK, but around the world, and will continue to do so for many years to come.”

Her fellow judge, Catherine Johnson, described Eddo-Lodge’s title as “a thunderclap of a book”, while Singh, the chair of judges, said it “unflinchingly confronts a country where racism is – by all indicators – at an all-time high, but there are no identifiable racists”

“It teases out the nuances of racism in its ever-shifting complexity, and yet does so in prose that is clear, precise and simple. It is a book that not only holds up a mirror to contemporary Britain but also serves as a warning, and most of all, a clarion call for action,” said Singh. “We all need to read this book.”

Open to all genres of writing, this year’s Jhalak prize shortlist spanned fiction from Nadeem Aslam and Meena Kandasamy, poetry from Kayo Chingonyi, memoir from Xiaolu Guo and young adult fiction from Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Eddo-Lodge takes home £1,000 and a trophy.

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First Published 15.03.18:

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