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Candice Carty-Williams
Photograph: The British Book Awards

London authors Candice Carty-Williams and Bernadine Evaristo are first Black writers to win top prizes at the British Book Awards

Carty-Williams’s debut novel ‘Queenie’ won the coveted Book of the Year award

Alexandra Sims

Londoners Candice Carty-Williams and Bernadine Evaristo have become the first Black authors to win the British Book Awards’ top accolades. 

Carty-Williams, who grew up in south London, won the coveted Book of the Year award for her debut novel ‘Queenie’ at this year's Nibbies, which was held virtually yesterday – the first time a Black author has won the prize since its inception. She also won Debut Book of the Year. 

Evaristo, who was raised in Woolwich, won the prestigious Author of Year award and the Fiction Book of the Year award for her Booker-winning novel ‘Girl, Woman, Other’, told largely from the perspective of 12 different characters who are mostly women, Black and British. 

Bernadine Evaristo
Photograph: British Book Awards

Book of the Year Judge Stig Abell, former editor of the TLS, called ‘Queenie’, which is set in London and follows a turbulent year in the life of 25-year-old Jamaican Brit Queenie Jenkins, ‘a novel of our time, filled with wit, wisdom and urgency’. 

‘It is unafraid to tackle life as it is being experienced by a young, single Black woman in the city,’ he added. ‘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 was ambivalent about her win saying: ‘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.’

You can read about all this year's award winners on the Britsh Book Awards website

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