This is a massive step forward for Own Voices and we couldn’t be prouder

BAME authors are finally getting a prize to show their talents and voices

It’s no secret that we at Maximum Pop! are huge supporters of Own Voices writers and advocated for greater diversity in YA publishing. That’s why we’re so incredibly happy to see that some of our favourite YA authors have been shortlisted for the first ever Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour. This brand new prize celebrates books by British BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) writers.

Former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman aka. The Original Queen of UKYA, has been longlisted for her YA adaptation of Othello in Space ‘Chasing the Stars’. She is joined by Kiran Millwood Hargrave whose ‘The Girl of Ink & Stars’ was published earlier this year by Chicken House. Not only is it brilliant to see two YA authors on this list, it’s also brilliant to see an indie publisher in there too!

Malorie Blackman has always been a very vocal supporter of diverse voices in children’s books. Her iconic ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series is one of the most controversial and progressive YA novels about race and identity ever published. BBC One are also going to be adapting it for TV and we can’t wait to watch it! ‘Chasing the Stars’ features several main characters of colour, and most notably, a woman of colour is featured on the cover. This is something surprisingly rare in UKYA novels, and we were so happy to see it when it came out last year.

Kiran’s novel ‘The Girl of Ink & Stars’ was one of the most eagerly anticipated debuts of 2016 and was selected as Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month. The story follows Isabella, the daughter of a cartographer who lives on the island of Joya; an isle both steeped in mythology and shrouded in mystery. Everyone also fell in love with the cover, which we agree is gorgeous!

With only a handful of YA novels being published by BAME authors in 2017 (that we know of thus far), there is still a very long way to go for diversity in YA publishing. We’re hoping that more prizes like this with encourage more and more people of colour to pursue writing and publishing.

The shortlist will be announced on 6th February 2017 and the winner will be announced during Bare Lit Festival March 2017. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for both Kiran and Malorie – let’s hope they make the shortlist and one of them comes out the winner. Preferably both!

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