It tells the story of a British-Ghanaian boy called K who – like Owusu – was taken into foster care as an infant in rural England, where he enjoyed an idyllic childhood in the countryside. But when his birth family claims him back aged 11, he is thrown into an alien world of working-class city life – trading fields and trees for concrete and council blocks, with a hard-working mother and semi-absent, sometimes violent, father.
“That Reminds Me is written with a rare style that wrings pure beauty from every painful, absurd moment K must face,” said judge Preti Taneja, whose own novel, We That Are Young, won the prize in 2018.
“Despite the terrors around him, this young black man has an instinctive love for the world that burns at the core of the book.”
She added: “The judges and I were as shattered by the truths of the story as we were moved by the talent of its writer. Derek Owusu has given us a unique, profound and transcendent work of literature: we want as many readers as possible to discover it – once they do they will return to again and again.”
As well as writing, Owusu is also the award-winning host of lit and pop-culture podcast Mostly Lit and contributed to Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space, an anthology MP Diane Abbott called "utterly unique".
Speaking to Penguin.co.uk in January, he said he wrote That Reminds Me out of a “desire to understand myself better,” adding: “I was in hospital when I came up with the character of K, and exploring his life helped me understand my own.”
Idris Elba's production company, Green Door Pictures, has already bought the rights to Owusu's yet-to-be-released second book, Teaching My Brother To Read.