There are three writers of African descent on the Desmond Elliott Prize 2021 longlist announced on April 14, 2021.

The Desmond Elliott Prize, one of the most prestigious for debut novelists in the UK, awards the winning author £10,000 to shape their developing career. Ten novels are longlisted for the prize, from which three shortlisted novels are selected by a panel of expert judges. The prize, which was first handed out in 2008, was won by Derek Owusu in 2020.

The judging panel for this year’s edition is chaired by 2016 winner Lisa McInerney alongside journalist and author Chitra Ramaswamy and book reviewer and broadcaster Simon Savidge. The list of ten they announced included the following books by writers of African descent.

  • Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez – Dialogue Books/Little Brown Book Group
  • Castles from Cobwebs by J.A. Mensah – Saraband
  • Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson – Viking/Penguin Random House

Lisa McInerney, said: ‘It is a personal delight to chair the judging panel of the Desmond Elliott Prize five years after Iain Pears, Sam Baker and Katy Guest chose The Glorious Heresies as their winner. So we can keep literature in rude health, a writer who finds success should never pull the ladder up after herself, and this is one way for me to hold that ladder for emerging writers, to pass on the welcome and encouragement and assistance I’ve been so lucky to get from my peers. This is why I was so pleased to hear of the inclusion of a programme of support from the National Centre for Writing — what a positive and important expansion to the prize. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Chitra, Simon and I.’

Commenting on the longlisting J. A. Mensah said, ‘I’m delighted to have been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. It’s exciting and an absolute honour for the book to be recognised in this way.’

On his part, Caleb Azumah Nelson said; “Pleased to say OPEN WATER has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize 2021! congrats to all the longlisted writers!”

The winning author will be celebrated at an event in July 2021, receiving the £10,000 prize to support their writing future, alongside a year of support from the UK National Centre for Writing.