The Ghanaian-British author Caleb Azumah Nelson’s novel Open Water has been named Debut of the Year at the 2022 British Book Awards. Also awarded, in the category of Best Illustrated Children’s Book, is the British-Nigerian illustrator Dapo Adeola for his work on Hey You!

The awards, also known as the “Nubbies,” is annually run by the book trade magazine The Bookseller and honors quality publications across several categories. The 2022 ceremony was held at an in-person event in Central London and on livestream. Winners across categories were selected by a judging panel that included five Africans, Abi Dare, Natasha Onwuemezi, Obioma Ugoala, Ugo Monye, Irenosen Okojie.

Azumah’s Open Water, a Waterstones Book of the Month selection, has been described as a celebration of black art and love, centering two black artists who meet at a bar in London and begin a wholesome and yet complicated love affair. The novel, which was published in 2021 by Viking Press in the UK and Grove Atlantic in the US, is without doubt one of the most celebrated debuts by an African author in recent history, garnering a string of accolades that include a win for the Costa First Novel Award and nominations for the Dylan Thomas Prize, Gordon Burna Prize, and Desmond Elliot Prize.

Dapo Adeola’s Hey You!: An Empowering Celebration of Growing Up Black features nineteen illustrators exploring the experiences of race and racism faced by Black children. The book is at once honest and unflinching and yet hopeful in its message of empowerment to a new generation of dreamers. The book was published earlier in the year by Nancy Paulsen Books and has been well-received.

Super congratulations to Caleb Azumah Nelson and Dapo Adeola!