Jyoti Patel wins #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize with coming-of-age novel

Stormzy and Emma Dabiri were among the judges who awarded Patel’s Six of One with the prestigious publishing contract

A photograph of Jyoti Patel against a background of green ivy
Merky Books 2021 New Writers' Prize winner: Jyoti Patel. Image: Penguin

Stormzy has named the winner of the second #Merky Books New Writers Prize as Six of One, a coming-of-age novel by Jyoti Patel.

The rapper, who heads up #Merky Books, selected Patel’s book from more than 2,000 submissions – nearly double the number of entries submitted the previous year. Patel, who is 28, will receive a publishing contract with the imprint. The prize aims to discover unpublished, underrepresented writers aged 16-30 from the UK and Ireland.

Patel said the win "meant the world", and that she was joining her "dream publisher". She told Penguin.co.uk: "I'm so overwhelmed to be in the Merky Books family. This is something I've wanted to do since I was a kid. I'm just in a bubble of happiness."

Six of One explores what it means to be a person of colour in Britain today, discussing themes of identity and the stories that we tell ourselves to manage trauma. Narrated from a dual perspective – that of 18-year-old Nik and his British Indian mother Avani – Jyoti’s novel switches between the past and present as Nik tries to unravel the circumstances of his father’s death.

The panel of judges included What White People Can Do Next author Emma Dabiri, author and founder of Make Motherhood Diverse Candice Brathwaite, comedian and actor Guz Khan and British Olympian Heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Johnson-Thompson said of Six of One: “From the first paragraph, the quality of writing put me at ease, I could relax into the story knowing I was going to enjoy it.”

Jyoti’s novel follows the inaugural winner, We Are All Birds of Uganda, which was written by Hafsa Zayyan and published in January. Next month, #Merky Books will launch their New Writers’ Prize Alumni in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature, which will provide all previous, current and future longlisted writers of the prize with ongoing mentorship, advice and a space to connect with each other.

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