Clapton bookshop teams up with Jhalak Prize to celebrate author's work

Jo Heygate, Bookshop Manager at Pages of Hackney holds up the book Antiemetic for Homesickness by Romalyn Ante. 

Jo Heygate, Bookshop Manager at Pages of Hackney holds up the book Antiemetic for Homesickness by Romalyn Ante. - Credit: Pages of Hackney

An independent Lower Clapton bookshop has partnered with the literary Jhalak Prize to celebrate a book portraying the lives of Filipino nurses in the UK. 

As part of a new initiative, supported by National Book Tokens, 12 independent bookshops, including local bookshop Pages of Hackney, will serve as Jhalak Prize Bookshop Champions to celebrate one of the titles shortlisted for Book of the Year by a writer of colour.

The book Antiemetic for Homesickness was released last year and is shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize.

It was written by Romalyn Ante, who migrated to the UK from the Philippines aged sixteen to live with her mother, an NHS nurse.

Pages of Hackney, like the Jhalak Prize, try to provide a platform for marginalised voices.

Jo Heygate, Bookshop Manager at Pages of Hackney, said: “We don’t want to be a bookshop in Hackney that only sells books by the dominant mainstream.

“We see our bookshop as a community hub, a safe space and a welcoming place to exchange ideas and information.”

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Pages of Hackney are “huge supporters” of the Jhalak Prize, according to Jo, who described the work they do to platform British BAME writers as “always inspiring”.

Jo said that Antiemetic for Homesickness is “a really special book that is particularly relevant to the times we’ve just lived through.”

Adding: “The pandemic caused high death rates among the Filipino nursing community. Romalyn's book seeks to humanise exiled nurses who undertake care work and the price they pay for being separated from their homeland.”

Romalyn's book was awarded the Irish Times Best Poetry Book of 2020 and won the Poetry School’s Book of the Year, as well as being longlisted for the 2021 Dylan Thomas Prize.

It has been described by Peter Kalu as “a poetry tour-de-force delivering a sustained, insider chronicle of these Covid-19 times. Revelatory and moving.”

Speaking of her own experience coming out of lockdown, Jo said it: “It’s been quite emotional opening up and seeing all our customers again, it's not really a bookshop without the customers.”

In May 2020, the Filipino UK Nurses Association reported Filipino health workers having the highest number of Covid-19 staff mortalities in both the NHS and social care, 22 per cent of all staff deaths.