Taj Ali

Debut author wins RSL Award for account of South Asian political activism in twentieth-century Britain.

Posted by Becca Parkinson - Thursday, 7 Dec 2023

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Manchester University Press are delighted to announce that debut author and journalist Taj Ali has been chosen as the winner of this year’s £5,000 RSL Giles St Aubyn Award. Ali is the first author published by a university press to win this prestigious award.

Taj Ali, recently appointed co-editor of Tribune magazine, is a well-established journalist and commentator, with a focus on class and socio-economic inequality. He was previously industrial correspondent at Tribune, one of the few journalists specialising in coverage of trade unions and the world of work. He has written for the Huffington Post, Metro and The Independent, among others.

The RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction are available annually for authors engaged on their first commissioned works of non-fiction. They were established in 2017 through a generous bequest from author and RSL Fellow Giles St Aubyn. Giles St Aubyn (1925-2015) wrote 14 non-fiction books and taught history for nearly 40 years at Eton College. A nephew of Vita Sackville-West, he counted John Betjeman, John le Carré and The Queen Mother among his friends.

This year’s judges were Tom Burgis, Fiona St Aubyn andLeila Aboulela. Tom Burgis said of Taj’s submission:

‘Taj Ali’s book is that precious thing: the untold version of a story we think we know. In the hands of this young writer of talent and determination, it promises to be an illuminating and urgent read.’

The working title of Taj’s forthcoming book is Come what may, we’re here to stay: a story of south Asian resistance. South Asians have a proud tradition of political activism in Britain. Whether defending their communities from racist attacks or organising for better pay and conditions on factory floors, activism was a matter of survival. Yet much of this history has not been recorded. This book not only reveals an important but neglected aspect of British Asian history, but also provides a blueprint for political organising in the twenty-first century. We believe the book will spark a conversation on contemporary issues such as racism, identity politics, nationalism and extremism.

Publisher Kim Walker acquired world rights directly from the author, publication is planned for 2025. She said of the award victory and MUP’s burgeoning trade list:

‘I’m delighted for Taj, to have your work recognised as your still writing the book is a major achievement. He’s a fantastic journalist and a writer I admire for his energy and candour. This incredibly important book explores the powerful and varied story of political activism in the South Asian community, bringing an overlooked piece of 20th-century history back into prominence. It’s a privilege to work with Taj – we’re thrilled to be publishing his first book.

MUP has launched a programme of high-quality and intellectually engaging books designed for a broad audience. This award recognises Manchester University Press alongside leading trade publishers. At present we are actively acquiring compelling, intellectual and agenda-setting works spanning Humanities, Social Sciences, Business, and Popular Science.’

Taj Ali said of the announcement:

‘It is an absolute honour to win this award. South Asians in Britain have a rich tradition of political activism. Much of this is oral history and hasn’t been documented. I want to change that. The generous financial support will enable me to preserve a history that is at risk of being lost.’

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