Candice Carty-Williams has said she she feels “proud” but “sad” to become the first black author to win the book of the year at the British Book Awards.
Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Queenie, fended off titles from authors including Lisa Taddeo, Oyinkan Braithwaite and Margaret Atwood.
She’s joined on the winner’s podium by Bernardine Evaristo, who was named author of the year.
Her Booker-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other, won fiction book of the year.
Reacting to her win, Carty-Williams said: “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 on to 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,” she continued.
“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.”
The win comes just weeks after fellow author Evaristo became the first black British woman to top the UK paperback fiction chart; and Reni Eddo-Lodge became the first black British author to top the UK’s best-seller list.
‘Not the black Bridget Jones’
Carty-Williams’ book, about a troubled young Jamaican woman, was dubbed as “the black Bridget Jones” on its release, but its author explained to Stylist last year that that was not entirely accurate, because of the character’s background.
“Well, everyone has made the comparison to a black Bridget Jones,” she told the fashion publication. “That’s how I thought of her in the beginning, too.
“But this book is also naturally political just because of who Queenie is. She’s not Bridget Jones. She could never be.”
Book of the Year judge Stig Abell described it in other terms, as “a novel of our time, filled with wit, wisdom and urgency.”
He added that the author had been “unafraid to tackle life as it is being experienced by a young, single black woman in the city”.
“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,” he went on.
Elsewhere, there were wins for Oyinkan Braithwaite for her book My Sister, the Serial Killer; Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone’s Pinch of Nom won best non-fiction lifestyle; and Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments scooped audiobook of the year.
Check out the full list of winners via the The Bookseller’s website.