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Indian origin author bags coveted UK prize

Inspired by a special childhood bond and set in the Himalayan foothills, a book by Indian origin author Jasbindar Bilan has won the coveted UK children’s book award.

The Costa Book Awards’ winning entry of 2019, ‘Asha and the Spirit Bird’, follows the journey of an 11-year-old who is empowered with spiritual connections to her grandmother.

“Jasbinder’s majee (grandmother) was a strong, special woman who had the challenge of raising five children single-handedly, as well as running the farm in India, and Jasbinder’s bond with her was the inspiration for ‘Asha & the Spirit Bird’,” the Costa Awards citation read.

“Wow! We unanimously lost our hearts to this gorgeous book,” was the response of the judges who sifted through 144 entries to find the winner.

As a girl who would hunt out small scraps of paper to write her favorite words, Bilan said that she “wanted to capture the essence of India in my story and for my reader to be transported to its heart.”

She moved from India to Nottingham with her family as a small child, and now lives near Bath with her husband and two sons.

She will receive 5,000 pounds for her debut book.

Launched in 1971, the Costa Book Awards is one of the UK’s most prestigious book prizes and celebrates the most enjoyable books of the year by writers resident in the UK and Ireland.

Bilan, alongwith the winners of the other four categories – novel, first novel, biography and poetry – is now considered for the £30,000 Costa Book of the Year which will be announced on January 28.

In 2010, Indian origin writer Kishwar Desai had won the first novel category for ‘Witness the Night’, a book about sex trafficking.

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