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Yepoka Yeebo takes home 2024 Jhalak prize for writers of colour

Yepoka Yeebo takes home 2024 Jhalak prize for writers of colour

Yepoka Yeebo has won the 2024 Jhalak prize for her nonfiction book about a Ghanaian con artist.

Anansi’s Gold is an “exhilarating journey” through the life and “almost unbelievable” adventures of John Ackah Blay-Miezah, “told with great panache and a biting wit,” said prize director Sunny Singh.

Yeebo was announced as the winner of the prize – which recognises books by writers of colour – at a ceremony at the British Library on Thursday evening.

“The ever-proliferating grifter-lit bookshelf is on the verge of collapsing under its own weight. But Yepoka Yeebo’s contribution to the category stands out,” wrote Lauren Mechling in a Guardian interview with Yeebo last year.

“Her meticulously researched Anansi’s Gold isn’t set in Silicon Valley or a swishy enclave such as Nantucket (Massachusetts) or Noto (Sicily). Anansi’s Gold offers a tangled and mesmerising history of Ghanaian-born John Ackah Blay-Miezah, architect of an Accra-based scam that American prosecutors called ‘one of the most fascinating – and lucrative – in modern history’.”

Yeebo told Mechling that she first came across the story of Blay-Miezah when her mother sent her a WhatsApp video showing a charismatic man claiming to be the guardian of billions of dollars.

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Other books shortlisted for this year’s prize were A Flat Place by Noreen Masud, Boundary Road by Ami Rao, Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks, Self-Portrait as Othello by Jason Allen-Paisant, and Twelve Words for Moss by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett.

Hiba Noor Khan won the Jhalak children’s and young adult prize for her historical novel Safiyyah’s War, set in Paris during the second world war. When her father is arrested by Nazis for his involvement in the resistance, Safiyyah takes on his secret work, helping Jews escape to safety. “This story of heroism, shared humanity and hope cherished against long odds is so beautifully written it will be hard for any reader of 9+ to forget,” wrote Imogen Russell Williams in the Guardian.

Each winner will receive £1,000 and a work of art created by Jhalak art residency artists. The judges “picked two incredibly ambitious, timely and timeless books,” said Singh. “While this year’s winners are very different in form, style, theme and content, they speak urgently and yet timelessly to a world in turmoil.”

Books also shortlisted for the children’s and young adult prize were Geoffrey Gets The Jitters by Nadia Shireen, How to Die Famous by Benjamin Dean, Steady for This by Nathanael Lessore, To the Other Side by Erika Meza, and Wild Song by Candy Gourlay.

The prizes were open to UK and Irish citizens and residents. This year’s judging panel comprised actor Anni Domingo; writers Stella Oni, JP Rose and Rashmi Sirdeshpande; poet Denise Saul; and the winner of the 2023 Jhalak children’s and young adult prize, Danielle Jawando.

Previous winners of the Jhalak prize include Reni Eddo-Lodge, Guy Gunaratne and Johny Pitts. Last year, Travis Alabanza won the adult prize for None of the Above, while Jawando won the children’s and young adult award for When Our Worlds Collided.

Source: theguardian.com