Top notch topknot: Times journalist Sathnam Sanghera wins Mind Book of the Year Award 2009
Posted Friday 15 May 2009
Mental health charity Mind has announced today that Times journalist Sathnam Sanghera has won this year's Mind Book of the Year Award for 'The Boy with the Topknot: a memoir of love, secrets and lies in Wolverhampton' (1). The memoir is about growing up in Wolverhampton and retrospectively discovering at the age of 24 that both his father and sister had schizophrenia.
Mind Book of the Year judges, Fay Weldon, Blake Morrison and Michele Roberts chose 'The Boy with the Topknot' over 110 entries as this year's greatest literary contribution to raising awareness around issues of mental distress.
Judge Blake Morrison said: "'The Boy with the Topknot' is a real one-off - a brave, candid, dark yet also hilarious memoir. At one level it's a story about growing up as an Asian in Wolverhampton, and the insights it offers into a Punjabi family in the Midlands, and the wider Sikh community, are revealing. But the book also asks itself a serious question: "How can someone grow up with two members of their family suffering from a severe mental illness...without realising it?" In fact, Sathnam Sanghera was in his mid-twenties before he realised that his father and elder sister had a diagnosis of schizophrenia - and he was 30 before he tried to find out more. When he did, he had to start from scratch, and that's part of what makes his memoir so engaging: it's unguarded, garrulous and frequently self-accusing in its quest to find the truth. In solving the riddle of his own family, Sathnam Sanghera also reveals a great deal about attitudes to mental illness in general."
On winning the award last night, Sathnam Sanghera said: "It was such a strong shortlist, and this award is judged by some of the greatest authors in the UK, so this is a real privilege. There are hardly any books about Asian communities' experiences of mental health problems, so I hope people read this book and it leads to more understanding."
Sanghera was born in 1976. He is an award-winning journalist who was previously chief feature writer at The Financial Times and now works for The Times. He lives in London and this is his first book.
Other Awards won were Mind Champion of the Year, given to Alastair Campbell, Mind Journalist of the Year, given to local journalist Eleanor Harding of Wandsworth Guardian and Mind Student Journalist of the Year, awarded to Nicola Byrom of Nottingham University's Impact magazine.
The Mind Awards are part of Mind Week, which this year focuses on men's mental health. The charity launched its 'Get it off your chest report', presenting evidence that the recession is having an adverse affect on men's mental health and that although men and women experience mental distress in roughly equal numbers men are much less likely to get diagnosed and treated for it. The campaign aims to get men to recognise the importance of talking about their problems and is calling for a strategy on men's mental health.
1) The Boy with the Topknot' was published in 2008 by Viking, originally under the title of 'If you don't know me by now' (ISBN 9780670916702)
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