Castles from Cobwebs: 2019’s NorthBound Book Award Winner to be published early next year

Posted on June 19, 2020

Castles from Cobwebs by J.A. Mensah

The inaugural NorthBound Book Award Winner is to be published in 2021 and we cannot wait to share this truly special book with the world. Ahead of this year’s NorthBound Book Award announcement, which will be announced by New Writing North on Friday 26th June, we thought we’d give you a glimpse of the book that wowed us last year and will be hitting the shelves next year.

Read a Castles from Cobwebs extract here.

I’d always known that I was Brown. Black was different though, it came announced. Black made me dizzy. Black came with expectations, of rhythm and other things that might trip me up.

As a child, Imani is full of grown-up questions: what’s the difference between faith and reality, do all black people really have rhythm, and why do people keep asking how she arrived at St Teresa’s Convent. Racially marginalised, Imani grows up with an ever-increasing feeling of displacement, which she remedies with the companionship of her shadow, Amarie, and her childhood sweetheart, Harold.

At 19, Imani is called to Accra in Ghana after the sudden death of her biological mother; at the same time, Amarie disappears. Past, present, faith and reality are spun together in this magical realist tale, as Imani’s unique process of understanding illuminates the stories we all tell ourselves to make ourselves whole. This enthralling debut charts the painful transition from innocence to understanding of a young woman whose very existence is founded upon a fiction.

“Powerful and unique … pure joy.” Chitra Ramaswamy





J.A. Mensah has written for theatre with a focus on human rights narratives and the testimonies of survivors. A former Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, she holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from Newcastle University. Castles from Cobwebs is her first novel. On winning the award Mensah said: ‘I’m thrilled to have won the NorthBound Book Award. It’s both an exciting and a daunting prospect to think that something I’ve worked on for so long, in what was quite a solitary process, will make its way out into the world. I’m grateful to have the work recognised in this way.’