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African writers make a mark in global literary awards

The past few weeks have seen African writers feature prominently in global literature awards. With different shortlists being revealed, and awards presented, African writers are making their mark, putting the continent on the global map. We feature some of the African writers who are making waves.



Ayobami Adebayo

The 28 year old writer is among the shortlisted authors of the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Ayobami whose debut novel Stay with Me was shortlisted for the prize, is the fourth African to be shortlisted in the prize’s 21 year existence.

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Orange Prize for Fiction has established itself as a reputable literary award. The award takes place annually and comes with a cash prize of £30,000.

Ayobami joins the league of African writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie whose books, Purple Hibiscus was shortlisted for the prize in 2004, later won the prize in 2007 with her book, Half of a Yellow Sun. Sierra Leonean- Scottish writer Aminatta Forna whose book The Memory of Love was shortlisted in 2011, and Canadian-Ghanaian writer Esi Edugyan for her 2011 novel Half-Blood Blues which was shortlisted in 2012.

Chimamanda Adichie with her new book, Dear Ijeawele. Ayobami joins the league of African writers such as Adichie whose books were shortlisted for the prize. Photo: Chimamanda Adichie/ Facebook

Currently going on book tours in the U.K. Ayobami said she was stunned when her book first came out in the long-list. We wish her all the best and root for her to win.

Read: 18 authors shortlisted for the South African Literary Awards

Imbolo Mbue

Another debut novel by an African writer made headlines recently. Cameroonian writer Imbolo Mbue, who first made headlines with the news of $1 million book deal for her novel, Behold the Dreamers won the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award. The PEN/Faulker Fiction Award comes with a cash prize of $15,000 and it is regarded as America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction.

The book was published by Random House, the same publishers of Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay with Me. Mbue is to receive her award on the 6th of May at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.

Cameroonian writer Imbolo Mbue won the PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award for her novel Behold the Dreamers Photo: Facebook/ Imbolo Mbue

The judges for this year’s prize were Chris Abani, Chantel Avecedo, and Sigrid Nunez. 500 books were considered for the prize.

Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi is not be new to the Nigerian literary scene. A graduate of the Syracuse University MFA program, Akwaeke also attended the Farafina workshop in 2015. Her debut novel Freshwater is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic next year. Akwaeke was shortlisted for her short story titled Who is like God for the Commonwealth Short Story prize.

Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel Freshwater will be out next year. Photo: Twitter/ Akwaeke Emezi

An excerpt of her short story from the Commonwealth website reads:

My mother talked about God all the time, as if they were best friends, as if He was borrowing her mouth because maybe He trusted her that much or it was easier than burning bushes or He was just tired of thundering down from the skies and having no one listen to Him. I grew up thinking that He was folded into her body, very gently, like when she folded sifted icing sugar into beaten egg whites, those kinds of loving corners.

Read: Nigeria’s literary prize for emerging authors

Kelechi Njoku

A Nigerian writer who has been off social media since 2014 when he won the Writivism competition for the West African region for his short story Survived By, has come into limelight once more. Out of the 6,000 entries submitted for the Commonwealth Short Story prize, his story By Way of a Life Plot was among the 21 stories shortlisted.

Kelechi attended the Farafina workshop in 2013 and is currently working on a book.

Kelechi Njoku is a 2014 Writivism Short Story winner for the West African region. He’s working on a novel Photo: Kelechi Njoku

An excerpt of his story taken from the Commonwealth website reads:

Hyacinth Ike planned to die on a Friday, because it seemed apt that he complete his life on a day other human beings tidied up their office desks for the week and—resolute in the conclusion that whatever wasn’t attended to that week would have to wait until the following week—headed for nightclubs, Bachelor’s Eve parties, and preparations for quick weekend trips. But, as the Devil’s interference worked with these things, Hyacinth’s plan had a crease.

The regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story prize will be awarded £2,500 while the overall winner gets £5,000.

We look forward to more writing from the continent, and wish those shortlisted the best.

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