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Tomiwa Owolade takes £10k top prize at RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards

8th December 2021

Writer and critic Tomiwa Owolade has won the top prize at the RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for his “powerful” forthcoming non-fiction book This is Not America, which Atlantic will publish in 2023.

The annual prize rewards first-time writers of non-fiction, and was judged this year by Gwen Adshead, Fiona Boyle and Clive Myrie. .

In This is Not America, which was won by Atlantic in a five-way auction, Owolade interrogates the many discussions about diversity that have arisen since the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“This powerful book appealed strongly to all of the judges; for the calm clarity of its voice, and its call to a nuanced and complex conversation about the diversity of Black identity in Britain today,” Adshead said. “The book’s premise will draw on evidence that the American experience of race may not be true for Britain, and that if we want to challenge racism and bigotry, we must do so using the best quality arguments about the truth of experience. Owolade’s book will stimulate argument and reflection in the best sense and has the potential to change minds for the better, increasing respect and dignity for all.”

Owolade has written columns, essays and book reviews for publications, including the Times, Sunday Times and Financial Times. He is a contributing editor at UnHerd. On receiving the award, he said:

“I am absolutely delighted and frankly stunned to have won the RSL Giles St Aubyn Award. I have never written a book before, and winning this prize is fantastic encouragement for completing This is Not America. I have wanted to be a writer since I was 13: if I wasn’t doing so professionally, I would still be writing. So, to be recognised in this way for doing something I love is wonderful. I am incredibly thankful to the judges for valuing the book I am working on.”

The 2021 awards were celebrated with three specially commissioned animated films by Josh Saunders, featuring recordings of the judges informing the winners of their awards for the first time. All three are available to watch on the RSL’s YouTube channel.

Tomiwa Owolade