Caleb Azumah Nelson

Add to shortlist

Photograph: Stuart Ruel



Caleb Azumah Nelson (b. 1993) is a British-Ghanaian writer and photographer, living in South East London. His writing has been published in Litro and he was recently shortlisted for the Palm Photo Prize and won the People’s Choice prize. He was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2020 for his story 'Pray'. 

His first novel, OPEN WATER, will be published by Viking (UK) in February 2021 and by Grove Atlantic (US) in spring 2021. 

Praise for OPEN WATER (2021):

'Open Water is tender poetry, a love song to black art and thought, an exploration of intimacy and vulnerability between two young artists learning to be soft with each other in a world that hardens against black people.' Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing

'Like the title suggests, Open Water pulls you in with one great swell, and it holds you there closely. A beautiful and powerful novel about the true and sometimes painful depths of love.' Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie

'Open Water is a beautifully, delicately written novel about love, for self and for others, about being seen, about vulnerability and mental health. Sentence by sentence, it oozes longing and grace. Caleb is a star in the making.' Nikesh Shukla, author of Meatspace

‘A short, sharp poetic burst of a novel; it crystallises the torments and heat of young love brilliantly.’ Andrew McMillan, author of Physical

Open Water has a delicate, painterly quality while packing a real emotional punch. Caleb Azumah Nelson is a real talent.’ Olivia Sudjic, author of Sympathy

'Open Water is a powerful portrayal of the way that systemic violence can make a person forget softness and vulnerability. It exposes the failure of language to encapsulate feeling and illuminates the love and the anger that rage around the edges of everything.' Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater

Open Water is about defiance, mourning, art and music. It is an ode to being a full human being in a society that does not see you that way. It is about clinging to love in a world heavy with injustice and violence. There is not a wasted page.’ Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Starling Days


Publication DetailsNotes

Viking (UK) Grove Atlantic (US)

A stunning, shattering debut novel about two Black artists falling in and out of love.

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential debut of recent years.