Candice Carty-Williams has become the first black British female author to win Book of the Year, for her debut novel Queenie.
The British Book Awards recognised a breakthrough year for black British authors with wins for Carty-Williams, Bernardine Evaristo and Oyinkan Braithwaite, announced at a virtual ceremony.
Queenie, the critically-acclaimed debut novel by Carty-Williams, won the overall Book of the Year accolade, beating authors including Margaret Atwood.
The story of a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither, Queenie has become a bestseller.
Carty-Williams, who is adapting the novel for a Channel 4 series, said: “This win makes me hopeful that although I’m the first [black female author to win the overall award], the industry are waking up to the fact that I shouldn’t and won’t be the last.”
Carty-Williams wrote the novel after seven years working in publishing, an industry she found “stilted and archaic.”
Evaristo top author
Evaristo won Author of the Year, with her Booker Prize-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other, told mostly from the perspective of 12 black women, taking Fiction Book of the Year.
The British-Nigerian author Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer won Crime & Thriller Book of the Year.
Books by black British authors have shot up the bestseller lists following the Black Lives Matter protests.
Book of the Year Judge Stig Abell, Editor of the TLS, said of Queenie: “This 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.”
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.”
Queenie has previously been shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year, Foyles Book of the Year and won Blackwell’s Début Novel of the Year.
Alice O’Keeffe, books editor of The Bookseller, said Trapeze, publishers of Queenie, had played an important role in the novel’s breakthrough.
“Trapeze’s publishing strategy was a masterclass in how to launch an author; from the now iconic jacket in multiple-colourways to the unmissable marketing and publicity campaigns that got everyone talking, and propelled Queenie into the bestseller lists.”