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.
Zambian Author Wins The Commonwealth Short Story Prize For Africa
Commonwealth Short Story Prize has announced the list of regional winners. Zambia’s Mbozi Haimbe is Africa’s regional winner. However, she is the second Zambian to achieve that feat. Haimbe won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her short story, “Madam’s Sister”.
The last time someone from Zambia won a commonwealth story prize was in 2007. Ellen Banda-Aaku took home the Commonwealth Short Story Competition (now defunct) for her short story, “Sozi’s Box”. Reacting to the announcement, Haimbe said,
“I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected as the regional winner and feel privileged to contribute to Africa’s literary landscape. Although a social worker by profession, I have always considered myself a writer. Winning the regional prize validates my aspiration. I thank the judges, and give acknowledgment to Zambia, which remains deeply influential to my writing.”
A brief biography of Mbozi Haimbe
The story of Mbozi Haimbe is a reassurance that you can aspire any height irrespective of your background. Notwithstanding Haimbe was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia she believed she could make it to the global stage. Consequently, her passion for writing led her to the University of Cambridge where she completed an Mst in Creative writing in 2018. Mbozi Haimbe is currently working on a short story collection inspired by African events. The summary of her Commonwealth Short Story Prize-winning story, “Madam’s Sister” says,
“The arrival of madam’s sister from London causes upheaval within the household but has an unexpected bonus for the guard, Cephas.”
Each regional winner will get £2,500. However, the global winner selected from the regional winners will get £5,000. Till date, only one African has been able to will the overall prize. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi went ahead to win the overall prize in 2014 after winning the regional prize for her short story, “Let’s Tell This Story Properly”.
About the Commonwealth Short Story Prize
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is an annual award open from 1st September to 1st November every year. Authors from commonwealth regions are encouraged to submit unpublished short story between 2,000 and 5,000 words. Now in its 8th year, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize received a total of 5,081 entries. However, this was streamlined to 21 shortlists. Sixteen of the 53 British Commonwealth nations made it to the shortlist. Speaking about the regional winners, Caryl Phillips, one of the jurors for the 2019 competition said,
“The regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize explore a remarkably diverse range of subject-matter, including stories about war, love, abuse, and neglect. What unites the stories is a common thread of narrative excellence and dramatic intensity. The voices of a truly global cast of characters enable us to engage with, and recognize, universal emotions of pain and loss.”
Submission of entries for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize can be in Turkish, Tamil, Swahili, Samoan, Portuguese, Malay, Greek, English, Chinese, and Bengali. However, English translations of shorts stories in other languages are also eligible. The Digital Director and Online Editor and Granta, Luke Neima, said,
“This year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize-winning stories showcase the short story in a range of guises, innovations of form that stretch but never exhaust the potential of the short story to address the regional and universal questions this gifted crop of authors seeks to address. These outstanding stories capture the breadth of talent writing today across the Commonwealth.”
Other regional winners
In total, there are 5 regions considered for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. This includes Africa, Asia, Canada & Europe, Caribbean, and Pacific. The other regional winners and their stories are;
- Asian Winner: Saras Manickam from Malaysia for “My Mother Pattu”
- Canada and Europe Winner: Constantia Soterious from Cyprus for “Death Customs”
- Caribbean Winner: Alexis Tolas from The Bahamas for “Granma’s Porch”
- Pacific Winner: Harley Hern from New Zealand for “Screaming”.
173 Nigerian Children Book Authors Contest For The 2019 NLNG Prize For Literature
The Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited prize for literature is one of the most anticipated literary prizes in the country. It revolves around four genres; prose, poetry, drama, and children’s literature. This year, the prize is for children’s literature. The last time this genre was up for the prize was in 2015. However, this year’s edition received a 59% increase in entries compared to 2015.
The submission of entries to the literature prize which is now in its 15th year ran from February 15 to April 5, 2019. On Thursday, 11th April 2019, the eligible entries were handed over to the Advisory Board of the Prize. The Advisory Board received 173 entries and handed it over to the panel of judges at a ceremony in Lagos.
The Members of the Advisory Board and Judging Panel
Present at the handover ceremony includes Advisory Board member and judging panel. Notable among the dignitaries were Professor Jerry Agada (member Advisory Board), Professor Ayo Banjo (Chairman Advisory Board), Andy Odeh (Corporate Communication and Public Affairs Manager of NLNG), Professor Obododinma Oha (Chairman Panel of Judges) and Professor Asabe Usman Kabir (Prize Judge). During the handover, Professor Ayo Banjo said,
“As we deliver these 173 books for your vetting, we eagerly look forward to the discovery of yet another literary gem that will open up possibilities for millions of children not only in Nigeria but all over Africa. We can confidently say that the Nigeria Prize for Literature has brought some previously unknown Nigerian writers to public attention.”
Winner and Award of Prize
The unveiling of the winner for the NLNG Literature Prize will be at a ceremony in October 2019. This event will also coincide with the anniversary of the first Liquefied Natural Gas export on October 9, 1999. While receiving the 173 entries, the Chairman Panel of Judges, Professor Oha said,
“We have been saddled with a big responsibility and we will discharge our assignment credibly.”
The winner of the NLNG Literature Prize will receive $100,000. This is the highest prize for a literature contest in the country. Ten entries were also submitted for the Literary Criticism Prize. The winner of the Literary Criticism Prize will receive 1 million Naira.
The previous winner of the NLNG Prize for Literature in the children’s literature category include;
2007—joint winners Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (My Cousin Sammy) and Mabel Segun (Readers’ Theatre: Twelve Plays for Young People).
2011—Adeleke Adeyemi (The Missing Clock)
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.”
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