Carty-Williams won the award for Queenie, her debut novel, which has become a bestseller. She was one of a number of black female authors to take home prizes at the annual ceremony, in a breakthrough year for representation.
Bernardine Evaristo won the Author of the Year award for her novel Girl, Woman, Other, which won the Booker Prize in 2019. Oyinkan Braithwaite also took home the award for Crime and Thriller Book of the Year for her novel My Sister, the Serial Killer.
In a statement, Carty-Williams said: “This win makes me hopeful that although I’m the first, the industry are waking up to the fact that I shouldn’t and won’t be the last.”
Stig Abell, who was among the judges at the ceremony, called Queenie a “novel of our time”, adding: “[It is] filled with wit, wisdom and urgency; and unafraid to tackle life as it is being experienced by a young, single black woman in the city.”
He continued: “This shouldn’t be filed away as simply a funny debut by a brilliant writer (though it is that); this is an important meditation on friendship, love and race.”
The British Book Awards were this year held virtually, with its regular in-person ceremony cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.