The Women’s Prize for Fiction is the most prestigious literary prize in the United Kingdom. Formerly known as the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, the prize goes to female authors of any nationality for full-length English novel published in the United Kingdom the preceding year. There are 163 entries this year but the judges painstakingly cut it down to 16. However, three Nigerian authors (Oyinkan Braithwaite, Akwaeke Emezi, and Diana Evans) made it to the longlist.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction was founded in 1996. The inspiration for the prize was prompted by the 1991 Booker Prize which sidelined female authors in the six shortlisted books. However, that year it was on record that sixty percent of books were by female authors. That event made journalists, librarians, booksellers, agents, and publishers to take action.
About the prize and judging panel
The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction will go home with £30,000 and a bronze sculpture, ‘Bessie’. Consequently, this year’s award ceremony will take place on June 5 in Central London. This year’s judging panel consists of Sarah Wood (a digital entrepreneur), Leyla Hussein (campaigner and psychotherapist), Dolly Alderton (author, broadcaster, and columnist), and Arifa Akbar (journalist and critic). The chairperson of this year’s judging panel is Professor Kate Williams. In a statement after the release of the longlist, Williams said,
“I am thrilled to share this longlist – 16 incredible books by a diverse group of women, from the UK and countries across the world, all brilliant stories that sweep you into another world. Each of them has been a privilege to read, and they have taken us into places a million miles from each other, exploring the lives of women and men in so many different but utterly compelling ways.”
Brief bio of the Nigerian authors and summary of their stories
Oyinkan Braithwaite is a Kingston University graduate of Creative Writing and Law. In 2016 her story was part of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist. “My Sister, the Serial Killer” explores the tale of Korede, whose younger sister Ayoola kills her boyfriends in the name of self-defense. Korede loves her sister and finds it difficult reporting to the police. All that changes when Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede is in love with the doctor and doesn’t want him to be one of Ayoola’s victims. However, saving one will mean sacrificing the other.
Diana Evans is a Nigerian-British novelist living in London. She has three novels to her name. “Ordinary People” follows the tale of two couples at the brink of revolution or surrender. Everything changes when Melissa gives birth to a new baby. Michael still loves her but is finding it hard to stay faithful. In the suburbs, Stephanie and Damian are happy with their three children until the death of Damian’s father.
Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer. “Freshwater,” tells the story of Ada, a child prayed into existence. Her parents struggle to contain the contradictory and volatile spirits within her. While in college an assault leads to crystallization of her selves. Subsequently, Ada’s life takes a dangerous and dark dimension.
Books and their authors that made it to the longlist this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction include;
- The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
- Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton
- My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
- The Pisces by Melissa Broder
- Milkman by Anna Burns
- Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
- Ordinary People by Diana Evans
- Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
- Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lilian Li
- Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn
- Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
- Praise Songs for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden
- Circe by Madeline Miller
- Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
- Normal People by Sally Rooney
Freshwater is first non-binary inclusion
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi earlier in 2018 won the Quartz Africa’s as the best African book. The inclusion of Emezi’s ‘Freshwater’ is the first time a non-binary trans author will make it to the long list of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The same day of the longlist announcement, the competition judges published an editorial believed to put an end to the controversy surrounding the inclusion of the novel on the list. Reacting to the novel, one of the judges, Arifa Akbar said,
“Emezi’s novel takes the conversation about female-only spaces and non-binary identities out of an often inward-looking, white, Western enclave, to give it new meaning.”
Past African winners
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the only African to have won the coveted Women’s Prize for Fiction (then Orange Prize for Fiction). The multiple-award-winning writer took home the prize in 2007 for her novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. If Oyinkan Braithwaite, Akwaeke Emezi or Diana Evans should win, it will be the second time the prize will come to Africa. The announcement for the shortlist will be on April 29.
The Story of William Kamkwamba’s Ingenuity Is Coming to Netflix March 1st 2019
Netflix is set to release the movie, ‘The boy who harnessed the wind’ on March 1, 2019. The movie is a true story adaptation of a book of the same title. Earlier, it screened at the Sundance Film Festival in preparation for its global debut.
When William Kamkwamba built a windmill, he never thought he was doing anything special. He had been forced to drop out of school as a result due to famine, that made it difficult for his family to afford his tuition. The young Malawian did not want that to deter his education so he frequented the village library. It was there that he discovered his love for electronics. After he read a book called “Using Energy“, he decided to make practical use of the information in the book and create a makeshift wind turbine. He experimented with a small model using a cheap dynamo and eventually transitioned to a functioning model. With it he was able to power up electrical appliances in this family’s house. This piqued the interest of the local community and soon the buzz of his ingenuity caught international attention.
The Book by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
Former Associated Press reporter, Bryan Mealer had been reporting on conflict across Africa for five years when he heard Mr Kamkwamba’s story. The story was just the kind of tale he loved to tell so he worked with Kamkwamba for a year to write the best selling book entitled “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind“.
In an interview with the BBC, Mealer said Kamkwamba represents Africa’s new “cheetah generation”, young people, energetic and technology-hungry, who are taking control of their own destiny.
“Spending a year with William writing this book reminded me why I fell in love with Africa in the first place,” he said, “It’s the kind of tale that resonates with every human being and reminds us of our own potential.”
According to Harpercollins Publishers, the book had already won praises from the bestselling author of ‘The Alchemist’, Paolo Coelho and Noble Laureate and former Vice President, Al Gore. You can get the book from Amazon.
Chiwetel Ejiofor makes directorial debut
The movie is a directorial debut of Chiwetel Ejiofor who doubles as an actor in the movie. The ’12 Years a Slave’ actor and Oscar nominee said he was charmed by the book and wanted to experience it. Speaking about the movie, Ejiofor said,
“To get emotional truth of the story, I spent a lot of time with William. I came to Malawi to experience the book from the actual ground. I met his family, friends and saw the village where everything took place. [Experiencing stories]…from one point of view is not very rewarding ultimately. I’m just looking forward to being a continuing part of that positive change.”
TED Global Talk
This is not the first time that William Kamkwamba’s story will be told to an international audience. In 2007, he was on Ted Talk sharing his story to a cheering audience. Several venture capitalists at the conference pledged to facilitate his secondary education. In 2013 he was named one of TIME magazine’s “30 People Under 30 Changing The World”.
A Broader Audience
However, the movie adaptation will take Kamkwamba’s story to a wider audience. Speaking on the adaptation of his book for a movie Kamkwamba said,
“It’s very exciting to me because at the time I was writing the book I wanted to reach out to as many people as possible. Having this chance of getting this story into a movie is going to reach more people than the book could have managed to do.”
There Are Two Nigerian Authors On President Obama’s Favorite Tradition’s List!
When it comes to books, there are multiple characteristics that make them someone’s favorite. It is not just about the cover but the quality of content and the message it delivers. The rising trend of reading has taken over the globe during the last two years.
Sharing your favorite books on social media has become the “new cool” and gives a whole new idea of someone’s personality. Many public figures have been keeping up with the new trends.
While the whole world has been sharing their special memories of 2018, the former American president is no exception. On his Instagram last year, Barack Obama shared his list of preferred books and called them a “favorite tradition”.
The list includes two Nigerian books, ‘Americana’ by Chimamanda Adichie and ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe. Being the only two authors from Nigeria hitting the list, they caught the attention of the public eye worldwide.
Critiques across the globe highly praise “Americana”. The other one “Things Fall Apart” is considered as the king of African literature. This 60-year-old publication is the most well-read book in African prose.
The crown of a favorite book of the year goes to ‘Becoming’. An autobiography written by his beloved, Mitchel Obama, is without a doubt, captivating. Obama mentioned the title with a side note “obviously my favorite”.
“It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books, movies, and music that I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved,” noted the former U.S president during his announcement.
“It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors, artists, and storytellers – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before.”
The annual lists posted by Obama reflect an extensive range of films, movies, and books from around the planet. Hitting multimillion likes and views, these posts give people a chance to encounter the famous personalities’ preferences.
Interview with Tim Crothers, Author of ‘Queen of Katwe’
Africa in general has its fair share of underdogs who rise up above tough circumstances to do extraordinary things and Phiona Mutesi is one of them. Her living situation was dire, she smelled so badly as a survival tactic to avoid the possibility of getting molested in the street. Today her story will be gracing the silver screen.
Queen of Katwe is a 2016 biographical sports drama film that depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess player from Katwe who becomes a Woman Candidate Master after her performances at World Chess Olympiads. The film stars David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, and Madina Nalwanga.
The film is produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN Films, and will be released in North America today, September 23, 2016, and will be followed by a general theatrical release on September 30.
Phiona Mutesi’s story would not have gotten the attention it deserved if it were not for Tim Crothers, a former Sports Illustrated senior writer who wrote Mutesi’s story in an article that appeared in ESPN Magazine’s Jan. 10, 2011 edition.
When Tim Crothers first met Phiona Mutesi in Uganda, she was very shy and not comfortable with talking about herself. It took a game of chess between Crothers and Mutesi in Siberia, where the 2010 Chess Olympiad was taking place, to break the ice.
“To be African is to be an underdog in the world. To be Ugandan is to be an underdog in Africa. To be from Katwe is to be an underdog in Uganda. And finally, to be female is to be an underdog in Katwe.”
Today, what was once an article of an underdog in the slums of Uganda has morphed into a book and a movie. Proceeds from both mediums have changed Phiona’s life for the better as has the lives of those who draw inspiration from her story.
AV: What inspired you to write a story about Phiona Mutesi?
Tim Crothers: When I first heard the story of a 9-year-old girl who was basically homeless in a Ugandan slum, couldn’t read or write and was essentially homeless suddenly stumbling upon the game of chess, a game so foreign there is no word for it in her native language, and four years later becoming an international chess champion I couldn’t wait to find out more details. I love stories of underdogs and Phiona is the ultimate underdog.
AV: Why is the book titled “Queen of Katwe”?
Tim Crothers: It’s a play on the game of chess and the fact that the queen is the most powerful piece on the board, but I had no idea when I wrote the book that Phiona would actually become an important female voice in Katwe and all over Uganda, really. So she really could become the queen of Katwe.
AV: Did Mutesi’s story change you?
Tim Crothers: Of course. Just having the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time changed me. The experience has redefined the meaning of the word “hope” in my eyes. Phiona had no reason for hope, yet she never gave up, never surrendered despite her desperate circumstances and I love to visit Katwe because of the hope I always see there despite the trying circumstances.
AV: With the movie coming out this week, what will you like the audience to take away from this story?
Tim Crothers: I hope audiences will see that you should always dream big. Most girls in Katwe aren’t encouraged to dream, but Phiona was given a chance to dream by Robert Katende and his chess program and once she was allowed to have a dream, she has pursued it relentlessly even when it seemed impossible. All of us should pursue our own dreams with that level of hope and faith
AV: Did you approach Disney or did Disney approach you on this story?
Tim Crothers: Disney approached me to option the story for the film. At first, I wasn’t sure that it would ever be made into a film, but Disney obviously saw the power of Phiona’s story and transformed my book to the screen expertly and beautifully.
AV: How will you describe the transformation you now see in Phiona as compared to your first encounter?
It is hard to believe that Phiona is the same girl that I first met in 2010. At that time she was a shy 14-year-old who wouldn’t look me in the eye and answered my questions with one word whenever possible. At that time she had only left the Kampala area once in her life. Now she is a poised, confident, curious 20-year-old who asks me more questions than I ask her. She has traveled to Russia, Norway, Turkey, Dubai, Azerbaijan, all over Africa and several times to the U.S. All of that travel has helped her mature very quickly.
Queen of Katwe comes out in select theaters today. The authenticity of the story on the big screen was made possible by Disney’s senior executive, Tendo Nagenda, whose father is Ugandan. After Disney optioned the rights to do the movie, it was Nagenda who developed the project into production working with Director Mira Nair. This is Disney’s first feature film that is not about animals in the jungle.
‘Queen of Katwe’ movie Trailer
Africa has it’s fair share of strife but with it comes stories that will inspire, stories to be celebrated, people to be revered. This is one such story and it is our hope that it will encourage many others to be told, stories that are uplifting and shift from the typical themes that often shape how the continent is perceived. While the responsibility remains primarily ours as Africans, it is important to also celebrate those who trouble themselves to tell our stories authentically, showing how we as Africans pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make the most of our circumstances.
– Belle Niba
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