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British Book Awards: Candice Carty-Williams’ response to her trailblazing Book Of The Year win

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Kayleigh Dray
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Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie author Candice Carty-Williams has beautifully explained the conflicting emotions that come hand-in-hand with being a trailblazer.

Candice Carty-Williams’ debut novel, Queenie, has been a firm favourite with critics and fans alike ever since it first hit bookshelves back in 2019.

It tells the tale, of course, of Queenie Jenkins, a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman whose life starts to unravel when she takes a break from her long-term boyfriend. Dealing with her many questionable decisions and misadventures, the book offers up a furiously funny, endlessly moving, and – at times – quietly devastating take on millennial life. And one from an underrepresented perspective, too.

Is it any wonder, then, that Queenie has been crowned ‘Book Of The Year’ at this year’s British Book Awards?

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Of course, Carty-Williams – who has unsurprisingly become a very popular figure on Twitter, with some 24.5K followers hanging on her every word – was overjoyed by the news, and celebrated her win on social media in her typically witty style.

“Your problematic fave and mine, Queenie, won DOUBLE at the British Book Awards,” she tweeted.

“Glad this happened the year I didn’t have to get on stage because I would have fallen over, no lie.”

Carty-Williams also, though, made sure to highlight the fact that she is “the FIRST Black AUTHOR to win it, let alone Black WOMAN since the prize BEGAN in 1994.”

“Sorry for all the caps, but what are you telling me?” she added.

Carty-Williams later made sure to expand upon the conflicting emotions that come hand-in-hand with being a trailblazer.

“I don’t quite know how I feel about winning ‘Book Of The Year’,” she said in a statement. “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,” she continued.

“Overall, this win makes me hopeful that although I’m the first, the industry is waking up to the fact that I shouldn’t and won’t be the last.”

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Reni Eddo-Lodge, of course, made a similar statement when her book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race topped the charts in the wake of the anti-racism protests which have been held across the UK.

“Well, the numbers are in,” she tweeted. “I’m the first and only Black woman to top Britain’s non-fiction book bestseller chart.

“Can’t help but be dismayed by this – the tragic circumstances in which this achievement came about. The fact that it’s 2020 and I’m the first. Let’s be honest. Reader demand aside, that it took this long is a horrible indictment of the publishing industry.”

Bernardine Evaristo, too, broke records earlier this year when she became the first female writer of colour to top the UK’s paperback fiction chart with her book Girl, Woman, Other

“I’ve just heard that I’m the FIRST female writer of colour to top the UK fiction paperback chart,” she tweeted. “The only other writer of colour was my fellow Bookeree @MarlonJames in 2015. Astonishing.”

One can only hope that publishers will sit up and take notice of Carty-Williams, Eddo-Lodge, and Evaristo’s phenomenal success. And that they will, having done so, do something about the fact that only 6% of authors published in the UK are people of colour.

Because, to echo Carty-Williams’ sentiments, these women’s ‘firsts’ shouldn’t be the last.

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Main image: Lily Richards

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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