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Archive for the ‘Ghana’ Category

SA illustrator wins international literary award

Via Golden Baobab: Accra, Ghana (9 May 2018)

Toby Newsome, a renowned Cape Town based artist has won the internationally coveted Children’s Africana Book Award (CABA) for his illustrations in the children’s book, Grandma’s List. The book was written by Ghanaian author, Portia Dery, who who jointly won the CABA with Toby Newsome.

Toby Newsome, the acclaimed illustrator of Grandma’s List.

The Children’s Africana Book Award is an annual prize presented to authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S.A. The awards were created by Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) and its sponsors includes the African Studies departments of universities Harvard, Howard and Yale among others. Past winning illustrators of CABA include South Africa’s Niki Daly.

One of Newsome’s stunning illustrations.

Grandma’s List is a brilliant and colorful story about an 8-year old girl, Fatima, who wants to save the day by helping her grandmother complete her list of errands. The problem is, Fatima loses the list and she has to recall from memory what was written on it. The rest of story then takes the reader on a funny and heartwarming adventure with Fatima and her family.

Grandma’s List, published by African Bureau Stories, won the 2018 CABA Young Children’s category along with two other books from international publishers, Candlewick Press and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This is the second international children’s book award that Grandma’s List has won. It previously won the prestigious Golden Baobab Prize for The Best Picture Book manuscript in Africa in 2014.

The new children’s publishing house, African Bureau Stories, has made an impressive move in publishing a truly Pan-African book like Grandma’s List, which is a powerful literary partnership between Ghana and South Africa. The publishing house’s aim is to produce world class and contemporary African stories for children. In addition to Grandma’s List, African Bureau Stories has produced three other children’s books which according to the publisher, Deborah Ahenkorah, are “super cool books that will delight children all over the world.”

Anastasia Shown, a CABA Reviewer from the University of Pennsylvania says:

Grandma’s List is an excellent read aloud book for school or storytime. The illustrations show a neighborhood in Ghana that is very typical of many African towns with shops, gardens, small livestock, and many people outside working and playing…One of the best features of the book is the characters of many ages. There are kids playing, vendors selling, teens on their phones, grownups working, and elders relaxing. They wear African prints and western styled clothes…The book can generate lots of great open ended questions.”


With illustrations like these it’s no wonder Newsome was the recipient of this coveted award!

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An interview with Kwei Quartey – our sunshine noir author for September

A new month calls for a new local thriller author sending shivers down readers across the continent’s spine.

This month, the co-author of the popular Detective Kubu series, Michael Sears, had the opportunity to interview Kwei Quartey for The Big Thrill – the magazine for international thriller writers.

Here’s what the two sunshine noir authors chatted about:

Kwei is the author of the Darko Dawson series that follows the exploits of a police detective in Accra, Ghana. He is a doctor who lives in Los Angeles, but he spends a lot of time in Ghana researching his novels.

Kwei’s books have been praised by critics as well as leading mystery writers like Michael Connelly, who said of his work: “Kwei Quartey does what all the best storytellers do. He takes you to a world you have never seen and makes it as real to you as your own backyard.” Kwei’s debut, Wife of the Gods, was an L.A. Times best seller, and was followed by Children of the Street, Murder at Cape Three Points, and Gold of Our Fathers. All reflect strong local themes – witchcraft, homeless children, oil, gold – and have taken Darko to different places in Ghana. In Death by his Grace, everything happens in Accra itself, set against the hyper-religious atmosphere of the Pentecostal churches. In fact, the murder is much too close to home as far as Darko is concerned, in more ways than one.

Death by His Grace is a “classic” mystery in the sense that Katherine Vanderpuye’s body is discovered in the house with no sign of forced entry. Darko immediately deduces that the murderer is known to her. It now becomes a matter of discovering who had motive and opportunity, and narrowing it down from there. It’s a rather different style from your previous books, Kwei. Did you set out to do something different, or did the story just naturally develop that way?

I wanted to do something different. I felt I needed a change in style and substance from the previous novels in the series to “shake things up.” I find it fascinating that my editor at Soho Press, Juliet Grames, had independently pictured the format of the book the same way I had decided to structure it.

Deliverance and the casting out of demons is a common theme in Pentecostal churches, which have a great drawing power in Ghana (Photo courtesy of

Evangelical churches play a big role in many parts of Africa. Fiery preaching and a strong community aspect attract big crowds and, often, big money. Bishop Howard-Mills’ church is no exception. Even Darko’s family is involved. Could you tell us about the impact of this type of organized religion in Ghana?

I feel it’s largely negative. Organized religion is a class and wealth system of inequity in which the congregation feeds the pastor/minister while sapping the time and energy of people who could be doing something constructive instead. Further, I think it fosters predeterminism, that is, the sense that things happen in the life of the individual at the whims of a higher power, or “by the grace of God.” This induces a kind of passivity and disinterest in change. I feel strongly about all the social topics I handle in my novel, but perhaps the strongest about this one.

Even sophisticated people still believe in, or at least are concerned about, the effects of witchcraft. When she fails to conceive, Katherine’s marriage falls apart because of her husband’s fear of witchcraft—albeit carefully orchestrated by his unpleasant mother. In the acknowledgments you note that Katherine’s story is based on real life. Does this underlying fear of the occult often intrude into relationships in Ghana?

Absolutely. In the West, we are used to “personal issues” affecting our relationships, but in Ghana and much of Africa, the other two factors that can intrude are (1) the extended family’s influence and (2) beliefs in the occult and the power of witchcraft, curses, and the like. Till this day, people in Ghana still consult an “oracle” to obtain knowledge of or protection from malicious events past, present or future. Ironically, the oracle consulted could be a “man of God,” or it could be a practitioner of traditional religion such as a fetish priest or “juju-man.”

Continue reading Michael’s interview with Kwei here.

Death by His Grace

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Six West African books with unconventional approaches to gender and power, as recommended by Chinelo Okparanta

Nigerian-American author Chinelo Okparanta recently compiled a list for Electric Literature of six West African books with an unconventional, defiant approach to gender relations and relationships.

Okparanta drew upon her own experience as a child of parents whose marriage was based on inequality and oppression; she writes: “Perhaps I recognized it in my parents’ marriage as my mother underwent one painful and exhausting move after another, following my father everywhere he went, because, she too, had not yet conceived of happiness outside the realm of marriage.

In my novel, Under the Udala Trees, I explore the themes of betrayal and rebirth and happiness in the context of gender and power. In writing the novel, I imagined, unlike Ramatoulaye, a sort of happiness that existed outside of the traditional schema of marriage. Or rather, I imagined the pursuit of that sort of happiness. The fundamental desires of my protagonist, Ijeoma, are unconventional in her West African setting in the sense that she does not find her value via an attachment to a man. Lately, I’ve been interested in finding other West African authors who are also unconventional in their portrayal of love and marriage, of gender and power. The following are my top six:”

Stay With Me
1. Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Akin and Yejide have trouble conceiving a child. Years of struggling leads Yejide to a prophet who stipulates that she find a goat and engage in a goat ceremony. Yejide even winds up breastfeeding the goat. With expertly maneuvered, almost incredible, certainly unpredictable plot twists, the end result is a deconstruction of the concepts of masculinity and femininity and a rejection of traditional customs of marriage. The novel asks us: What does it mean to be strong? Is strength a woman who carries on serving her husband his meal even after he has betrayed her, or is she in fact weak? Is weakness a man who acquiesces to his mother’s persistent demands, rather than resisting — rather than summoning up the strength to stand proudly by his wife?

What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky
2. What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Arimah

In this collection, we see love in many forms, but particularly, we see stories with young Nigerian women whose sexuality is not boxed up like some shameful secret, tucked away beneath a pile of blankets. These young women do not apologize for their existence as sexual beings; or at least they do not apologize in the traditional, self-deprecating sort of way. “Wild” presents a young woman who has had a baby outside of marriage and refuses to give in to her mother’s condemnation of her. The story itself is not quite an embracing of untraditional ideals, but a lifting up of the veil of taboo enough that by the end of this story, the young woman and her child are still portrayed with dignity. “Light” begins with the beautiful description of Enebeli’s fourteen year old daughter, who sends a boy a note, and it is not the first time. She writes, “Buki, I love you. I will give you many sons.” What is beautiful about this declaration is the girl’s own ownership of her intentions. The script is flipped here, which is to say that the demand is not being put upon her. NOT: “You must give your husband many sons.” Rather, she is the one in the power position here, and she acknowledges not only her authority to give, but also the fact that it is her will.
3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Two half-sisters grow up not knowing about each other. One sister becomes the “wench” of a British officer, unable to claim the title of “wife” — “wife” being a word reserved for white women. The other sister becomes a slave to the British, and goes on to give birth to a girl who also becomes a slave in Mississippi, USA. The bulk of literary criticism on Homegoing thus far has focused on the slave narrative and the purported complicity of Africans in selling themselves. What interests me, however, is the highly women-focused bent of the novel, the story really beginning with Esi and Effia. Though men certainly have their parts in the novel, these women are at once the subject and object of the story, both the water and the fire, whose lineages scald and flow into contemporary times. Effie and Esi are the ancestral characters whose spirits linger, long after they themselves, and their husbands, are gone.
Season of Crimson Blossoms
4. Season of Crimson Blossoms by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Embracing desire, fifty-five year old widow Binta falls into a love affair with a twenty-five year old gang leader and weed dealer named Reza. And why not? After a marriage marked by sexual repression, she craves intimacy. Set in Northern Nigeria, this bold new narrative tackles romance and eroticism in ways that defy the conservative culture of the North. Things get a bit tricky when Binta’s son confronts Reza about the affair.
Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun
5. Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Manyika
This beautiful, compact novel is a meditation on female aging and desire, as Dr. Morayo Da Silva, a seventy-four year old Nigerian woman living in San Francisco, narrates aspects of her life, past and present, in delightfully witty and poignant prose. Aging was never so hip, femininity never as powerful.
Behold the Dreamers
6. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
There is a married couple here. In fact, no, there are two married couples in this utterly beautiful and absorbing novel — Cameroonians Neni and Jende Jonga, and Americans Cindy and Clark Edwards. And yet, it is a triangular affair. Imagine an equilateral triangle where two sides are represented by each couple and the third by a country. You see, both couples are also in the midst of a tumultuous love affair with America. America becomes a genderless character whose power crumbles as the financial crisis takes root and the human story progresses.
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2 South African authors win the 2016 Golden Baobab Prizes for African children’s books

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

Alert! Golden Baobab has announced the winners of the 7th edition of the Golden Baobab Prize.

Established in July 2008, the Golden Baobab Prize is often referred to as the “African Newbery Prize”, and is a prestigious award in the African children’s literature industry. Its aim is to support the development of children’s books by African writers and illustrators.

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

The Prize invites entries of unpublished stories and illustrations created by African citizens irrespective of age, race, or country of origin. The Prize is organized by Golden Baobab, a Ghana-based pan-African NGO dedicated to “creating a world filled with wonder and possibilities for children, one African story at a time”.

The organisation’s advisory board includes renowned authors Ama Ata Aidoo and Maya Ajmera.

The Golden Baobab Prize received over 150 stories from 11 African countries this year. Submissions were judged by a jury from diverse backgrounds who brought nearly 100 years of collective experience in children’s literature to the selection of the 2016 winners and finalists.

The winning stories of the 2016 Golden Baobab Prize are:

  • Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books: The Ama-zings! by Lori-Ann Preston (South Africa)
  • Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books: Kita and the Red, Dusty Road by Vennessa Scholtz (South Africa)

The winner of each Golden Baobab Prize receives a cash prize of US$5,000 (about R70,300) and a guaranteed publishing contract.

Those shortlisted were:

2016 Golden Baobab Prize winners and shortlist announced

The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books

  • Maya and the Finish Line by Ayo Oyeku (Nigeria)
  • Lights and Freedom by Khethiwe Mndawe (South Africa)

The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

  • A Dark Night for Wishes by Kai Tuomi (South Africa)
  • Mr Cocka-Rocka-Roo by Lori-Ann Preston (South Africa)

Golden Baobab Executive Director Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum said:

For the past seven years, The Golden Baobab Prize has focused on delivering a quality annual literature prize that raises awareness about the need for more African literature for children. Now, the Prize is excited to enter a new phase where we will focus heavily on setting up more publishing partnerships and opportunities for our writers to get more African books into the hands of children. For the first time, this year’s winning stories are guaranteed a publishing contract. The longlist also receives publishing services from Golden Baobab that will connect their stories to leading African and international publishers.

Congratulations to the winners – and those shortlisted.

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Chains of events: Jennifer Malec speaks to Yaa Gyasi about her book Homegoing

Chains of events: Jennifer Malec speaks to Yaa Gyasi about her book Homegoing

Yaa Gyasi covers two continents and three centuries in an epic story of race, war, slavery and exploitation, writes Jennifer Malec for the Sunday Times

Yaa Gyasi (Penguin Random House)

Ambitious and absorbing, Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing stands out, even among a recent crop of outstanding fiction by young African writers. The book spans seven generations and 300 years, and has been compared to Alex Haley’s Roots and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. It is, as Ta-Nehisi Coates says, “a monster” – especially for a debut. Roxane Gay calls it “the strongest case for reparations and black rage I’ve read in a long time”.

Gyasi, who was born in Ghana, made headlines last year when she was offered a seven-figure advance for the manuscript of Homegoing. “It’s been overwhelming but wonderful,” she says of the acclaim. “I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child, so the warm reception that Homegoing has got has made me so grateful that I’ve been able to fulfil that dream.”

Gyasi has lived in the US since she was two, but Homegoing is charged with the mythology and customs of her home country. “My parents always made sure to foster community with other Ghanaian immigrants wherever we lived,” she says, “so I always had this extended family of elders who shared the stories, food and language.”

The geographical distance, however, gave her the room to explore Ghana’s history openly and honestly. “I had to build so much of the Ghanaian world in the book ‘from scratch’ rather than from that point of familiarity with which I approach the American world,” she says.

Homegoing begins in the 18th century on the Gold Coast, with two half-sisters: one is sold into slavery; the other marries a British slaver. While Esi is being kept captive in horrifying conditions in a dungeon, Effia is living in luxury on the castle’s upper levels. The narrative that follows traces the sisters’ descendants on each side of the Atlantic, with each chapter focusing on one character.

The structure of Gyasi’s novel is in delicate balance with the narrative, and the result is enjoyably pacy. Although abandoning a character just as you get to know them can feel frustrating, this feeling is soon soothed by the pleasure of immersing yourself in the next story.

Gyasi says the structural limitations she imposed on herself were a sacrifice to the whole. “I really wanted this novel to feel like a mosaic piece of artwork, one where the individual pieces were beautiful and strong, but when you step away and see the whole piece, the work gains its meaning. The long arch of this novel was so important to me that I didn’t mind moving on to a new chapter when the time came.”

Gyasi’s characters are not simply drawn and what sets Homegoing apart is its brutal honesty in depicting the complicity of Africans themselves in the slave trade. “Growing up in Alabama, I was kind of always thinking about race, and the irony of being from a country that had a role in the slave trade and ending up in a place where the effects of slavery are still so strongly felt was never lost on me,” she says.

“When I took a trip to the Cape Coast Castle in 2009 and heard the tour guides talk about slavery — not just from the European perspective, but from the Ghanaian as well — I realised that you shouldn’t have to travel to Ghana to have this information.

“Complexity of individual human nature is crucial in a book like this,” she adds, “where there are so many characters and so much ground covered. I wanted all of the characters to be complex, even the minor ones.”

The last character we are introduced to is Marcus, a Stanford graduate student researching black history who in the course of his work finds himself overwhelmed by his subject matter and incapacitated with anger.

Homegoing itself deals with slavery, the Asante-Fante wars, British colonialism, Southern plantations, coal mining in Alabama and the convict-leasing system, the Harlem Renaissance and the subsequent heroin epidemic.

But fiction offers some specific advantages in the face of such vast and troubling subject matter. “I think fiction gives you access to a kind of emotional truth that can be obscured when you have to adhere to the facts,” Gyasi says.

“Fiction can also collapse that distance between reader and character in a way that allows the reader to feel deeply empathetic for people who don’t even exist. It’s a powerful tool.”

Gyasi’s sketching of characters is occasionally patchy and some may argue that Homegoing suffers from a regrettable lack of levity. But the novel draws its strength from the accumulation of subjects, echoing its epigraph, an Akan proverb: “The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.”

Homegoing’s momentum is captivating and its impact is powerful. It’s a forest well worth getting lost in.

Follow Jennifer Malec on Twitter @projectjennifer

* * * * *

Yaa Gyasi’s favourite books

The Door of No Return
The Door of No Return by William St Clair. This book takes you through the Cape Coast Castle in great detail. I used it in researching the first two chapters.


Black Prisoners and Their World, Alabama, 1865-1900
Black Prisoners and Their World, Alabama 1865-1900 by Mary Ellen Curtin. I used this book to research H’s chapter and it was truly eye-opening. I knew very little about the convict leasing system and this book helped me enter the world.


One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A wonderful, bold book. Reading it made me feel expansive, like fiction could do anything.


Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I read this in my senior year of high school. It was the first book by a black woman that I had read and it gave me something to aspire to. It is still my favourite book.


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I love how this book engages with questions of the African diaspora.


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Writivism launches 2 new non-fiction awards for African writers resident in Ghana



Writivism has launched two new literary awards: The annual Koffi Addo Writivism Prize for Non-fiction and the Abena Korantemaa Writivism Prize for Oral History.

The announcement was made yesterday at the 2016 Writivism Non-fiction Workshop/International Women’s Day event at Alliance Francaise in Accra, Ghana.

The awards will be awarded to African writers resident in Ghana, and come with $500 (about R7,600) prize money each. They will be administered by the Center for African Cultural Excellence (CACE).

NoViolet Bulawayo (Chair), Yewande Omotoso and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah will judge the Koffi Addo Prize, while the Abena Korantemaa prize judging panel comprises Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Chair), Ndinda Kioko and Ukamaka Olisakwe.


More about the awards:

Writivism Launches Abena Korantemaa & Koffi Addo Non-Fiction Literary Awards

MAKEDA PR is pleased to announce two new literary awards; The annual Koffi Addo Writivism Prize for Non Fiction by African writers resident in Ghana and The Abena Korantemaa Writivism Prize for Oral History by African writers and storytellers resident in Ghana to be administered by; Center for African Culture and Excellence (CACE). The winners will be awarded, five hundred dollars ($500) each.

The awards were officially announced on the 8th of March, 2016 at the Public reading of the 2016 Writivism Non-Fiction Workshop/International Women’s Day that was held at Alliance Francaise, in Accra. To apply for both awards, please visit; for more details and guidelines.

The prize is in recognition, memory and honor of Nana Koffi Addo, Ex Werempehene of Kwahu-Twenedurase, near Obo, born on 6th May 1921 in Abetifi, Kwahu., He loved to write, and in his retirement authored and published, ‘Letters to a Son: Guideposts to Morality and Discipline’ (Published by Dorrance U.S.A., 2000) and his second book, “A Village Boy’s Dream – A Will to Succeed” – An Autobiography (Self-published in 2009). He had numerous articles published in various magazines and left behind 3 unpublished manuscripts including “Guidance for Young Women. He passed on, the 2nd of December 2011. The Koffi Addo prize judging panel comprises NoViolet Bulawayo (Chair), Yewande Omotoso and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah.

Abena Korantemaa, 100 years old, is regarded as the matriarch of her family clan, she is popularly known as ‘Maa Fri’. She has worked variously as a trader, and became recognized as ‘the queen of the onion traders’ in Nkawkaw, the Eastern Region of Ghana. To date she still performs this leadership role, advising various market women, and resolving any disputes. She has passed down the history of her ancestors in written, audio and video form. This prize is instituted in her name to recognize those women who through oral traditions preserve knowledge, passing it on from generation to generation. The Abena Korantemaa prize judging panel comprises Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Chair), Ndinda Kioko and Ukamaka Olisakwe.

About CACE

The Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) is a non-profit organisation that seeks to harness the abilities of African writers and artists in using culturally-grounded narratives to cause change in the societies in which they live through the advancement of cultural expressive forms, promotion and advocacy of cultural rights and heritage preservation.

About Writivism

Writivism has been the flagship CACE project since 2012. Writivism pays attention to emerging writers based on the continent and readers of work written by African writers through various activities including writing workshops, book publishing and an annual literary festival. The programme has reached over 1000 emerging writers working in English based on the continent and in 2016 has expanding to include writers working in French and those based in the Caribbean.

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Guess the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature Shortlist and Win!

The Story of Anna P, as Told by HerselfWhat About MeeraBy Any MeansShadow SelfThe ReactiveWhat Will People Say
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Alert! The shortlist for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature will be announced on Monday – guess which books will be on it, and you could win the three final titles!

The Etisalat Prize is awarded annually to a work of first fiction by an author of African citizenship.

To stand a chance of winning the three shortlisted books, tweet us your prediction of three books to @BooksLIVESA.

The 2015 Etisalat Prize longlist of nine books is:

Heading up this year’s judging panel is literary critic Ato Quayson. Joining him on the panel are writer, editor and journalist Molara Wood from Nigeria and author and journalist Zukiswa Wanner.

Etisalat Prize history:

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Terms and conditions

The competition closes 8 AM Monday, 14 December, 2015.

The prize can only be delivered within South Africa.

By entering this competition the participant agrees to the terms and conditions. The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

The prize may not be exchanged for cash.

The winner will be contacted on Twitter.

The winner may be required to participate in publicity.

Employees or agencies of TMG and NB Publishers or their family members, or anyone else connected with the Prize Draw, may not enter the competition.

Books LIVE accepts no responsibility for any damage, loss, liabilities, injury or disappointment incurred or suffered by you as a result of entering the Prize Draw or accepting the prize. Books LIVE further disclaim liability for any injury or damage to your or any other person relating to or resulting from participation in connection with the Prize Draw.

Books LIVE shall not be liable for any failure to comply with its obligations where the failure is caused by something outside its reasonable control.

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Fiction Friday: A Story by Ghanaian-born Author Yaa Gyasi, Whose Debut Novel Sold for 7 Figures this Year


HomegoingYaa Gyasi, a Ghanaian-born writer raised in Alabama in the United States, made headlines earlier this year when it was announced that her debut novel had been purchased in a seven-figure deal ahead of the London Book Fair.

The North American rights were acquired at auction by Knopf, who fought off competition from nine other bidders.

At the time, Knopf’s Jordan Pavlin called Homegoing “as beautiful and relevant a novel as any I’ve ever read”, adding that Gyasi “writes about race and history and identity and love with astonishing authority”.

Translation rights for the novel have been sold for a “major deal” in Spanish, as well as in Norway, Sweden and Hungary.

Viking have taken on the book in the United Kingdom, with publisher Mary Mount calling it: “enormously ambitious, incredibly moving and deeply resonant”.

“This is a rare novel about how history infuses all of our lives,” Mount told The Guardian. “Yaa Gyasi has an incredible eye for character and sense of human emotion. It will be a hugely exciting novel to publish.”

Gyasi, who was 25 at the time of the book’s sale, is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Berkeley, California.

Homegoing traces the descendants of two sisters, torn apart in 18th-century Africa, across three hundred years in Ghana and America:

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different tribal villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and will live in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising half-caste children who will be sent abroad to be educated before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the empire. Esi, imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle’s women’s dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, will be sold into slavery. Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration to twentieth-century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi’s novel moves through histories and geographies and captures–with outstanding economy and force– the troubled spirit of our own nation. She has written a modern masterpiece.

The novel is due out from Knopf in June 2016.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who recently won the National Book Award for Between the World and Me, said:

Gyasi’s characters are so fully realised, so elegantly carved – very often I found myself longing to hear more. Craft is essential given the task Gyasi sets for herself – drawing not just a lineage of two sisters, but two related peoples. Gyasi is deeply concerned with the sin of selling humans on Africans, not Europeans. But she does not scold. She does not excuse. And she does not romanticise. The black Americans she follows are not overly virtuous victims. Sin comes in all forms, from selling people to abandoning children. I think I needed to read a book like this to remember what is possible. I think I needed to remember what happens when you pair a gifted literary mind to an epic task. Homegoing is an inspiration.

He also could help but tweet about the book when he was reading it:

This Fiction Friday, get a taste of what Gyasi is capable of by reading a story she wrote for Guernica recently.

By Yaa Gyasi
June 15, 2015

And as I parted my lips and then, later, my legs, watching the last clouds of smoke slip upward, I kept hearing my mother’s voice say, “Jesus is a fire.”

In the final days of her life, my mother began telling everyone that she was a disciple who had been called upon to write two books for the next testament of the Bible: The Future Testament. The retirement home called me when they found her scrawling on the walls of her apartment, twice in her own excrement, once in the blood of her old dog, Peace.

“It’s just that she’s scaring people,” the Cherry Grove Homes director said in his thin, nasally voice. I could picture him on the other end, a white button-down, a red tie, perpetually smiling. “And we aren’t a nursing home, you know; we’re an independent living facility. I’m afraid we have to ask her to leave.” I flew to Alabama immediately, boxed up all of my mother’s possessions, and flew her away to live with me in California.

She had not spoken more than one sentence since seeing me, standing helpless and frightened on the welcome mat of her apartment. Now, walking around my two-bedroom house in Menlo Park, she began whispering to herself in Twi.

“Why did you kill Peace?” I asked. The retirement home director told me they had found the dog in the backyard with his neck slit, his front paws folded and touching as though he were praying.

She turned sharply toward me. “Sacrifice,” she said, before continuing to pace the house. Her English was deteriorating and, though my comprehension was still good, I hadn’t spoken Twi since childhood. I crushed an Ambien into the tea that I made for her, and when she began to nod off, I tucked her into the guest bed, went into my own room, and cried until morning.

Keep an eye on Books LIVE for more about Homegoing as the publication date approaches.
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Image courtesy of Publishers Weekly

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7 South Africans Make the 2015 Morland Writing Scholarships Shortlist

Alert! The Miles Morland Foundation has announced the shortlist for the 2015 Morland Writing Scholarships, including seven South Africans.

21 applicants have made the shortlist, including six from Nigeria, three from Ghana, two from Uganda, and one each from Zimbabwe, Egypt and Sudan.

The foundation received 345 entries this year. Michela Wrong, literary director, said, “This was fewer than last year but I felt the overall standard was higher.

“Now that the scholarships are better known we are attracting some of the best African writers. Some of the entries left me almost breathless. I am confident our four scholarships will yield four outstanding books.”

Wrong added, however, that the foundation was disappointed not to receive entries from a greater variety of African countries.

“There are many talented writers in Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and other countries,” she said. “We did have entries from them but none that made the shortlist. We would encourage people writing in English from all over Africa to apply in future years.”

2015 Morland Writing Scholarships shortlist

Fatin Abbas (Sudan)
Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria)
Ayesha Harruna Attah (Ghana)
Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond (Ghana)
Kurt Ellis (South Africa)
Akwaeke Emezi (Nigeria)
Amy Heydenrych (South Africa)
Mishka Hoosen (South Africa)
Karen Jennings (South Africa)
Beatrice Lamwaka (Uganda)
Kopano Mabaso (South Africa)
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda)
Kagiso Lesego Molope (South Africa)
Cheryl Ntumy (Ghana)
Bolaji Odofin (Nigeria)
Mary Ononokpono (Nigeria)
Ladi Opaluwa (Nigeria)
Megan Ross (South Africa)
Noo Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria)
Wiam El-Tamami (Egypt)
Blessing-Miles Tendi (Zimbabwe)

By Any MeansFinding SoutbekCoconutSpilt MilkDancing in the DustKintu
Powder NecklaceSaturday's ShadowsLooking for Transwonderland Making History in Mugabe's Zimbabwe

It is a big month for Kurt Ellis, whose book By Any Means was recently longlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature.

Karen Jennings is the author of Finding Soutbek, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Etisalat Prize, and a short story collection, Away from the Dead.

Kopano Mabaso’s Coconut (as Kopano Matlwa) achieved instant legend status when it was published in 2008. Mabaso followed that up with Spilt Milk in 2010.

Kagiso Lesego Molope is the author of Dancing in the Dust.

Literature lovers will be delighted to see Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi on the list. The Ugandan author won the Kwani? Manuscript Prize for Kintu in 2013, as well as the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Earlier this year Binyavanga Wainaina told Books LIVE that Kintu was an “incredible novel” that is “going places”.

Cheryl Ntumy is the author of a number of Sapphire Press romance novels, and Crossing, which was published in Botswana in 2010 and won the 2009 Bessie Head Literature Award.

Prufrock magazine congratulated the shortlist on Facebook:

Congratulations to Prufrock contributor Megan Ross, who has been shortlisted for this year’s Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship, which is Worth A Lot of Money.

Ross’ piece on the 2014 Thailand coup d’état appeared in Prufrock 7, while her short story “The Mechanics of Bruising”, is out now in our latest issue.

Modjaji Books also congratulated the candidates:

So proud to be associated with 3 of the shortlistees who have worked for Modjaji (as a book designer) Megan Ross and (interns) Karen Jennings and Mishka Hoosen. Congratulations to all the shortlisted writers. Such a fabulous list of writers.

Judges Ellah Allfrey (chair), Olufemi Terry and Muthoni Garland will meet on 14 December to discuss the shortlist. Four winners will be announced shortly after this.

Scholarship winners writing fiction will receive a grant of £18 000 (about R380 000), paid over the course of 12 months. Scholars writing non-fiction will receive a grant of £27 000 (about R572 000), paid over the course of 18 months.

Previous winners of the Morland Writing Scholarship include Percy Zvomuya, Yewande Omotoso and Ahmed Khalifa.

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Book details

  • Egyptian Gothic: Stories From The Land of Pharaohs and Revolutions by Ahmed Khalifa
    ASIN: B00AVZZ5N6

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Judges Announced for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature

The Etisalat Prize for Literature has announced the panel of judges for the 2015 award, including South African Zukiswa Wanner.

The third annual Etisalat Prize will be awarded this year, with prize money of £15,000 and a fellowship at the University of East Anglia under the mentorship of Professor Giles Foden, the award-winning author of The Last King of Scotland.

African Literature - An Anthology of Criticism and TheoryPostcolonialism - Theory, Practice or Process? The MadamsRefilweLondon – Cape Town – Joburg

Heading up this year’s panel is professor Ato Quayson from Ghana, a well-respected literary critic and academic who is currently director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Writer, editor and journalist Molara Wood from Nigeria fills the second spot on the panel. Her work has been published in many anthologies – including her own, Indigo which is available as an ebook – journals and international publications.

The third and final member of the the panel is Wanner, journalist and author of, among other titles, The Madams and London – Cape Town – Joburg. She frequently facilitates writing workshops all over the world and sits on the board of the immensely important Writivism project.

Entries for books qualifying for this pan-African award opened last month. First fiction books of over 30 000 words, published in the last 24 months and written by authors of African citizenship, are eligible. The 2014 award was won by South African Songewziwe Mahlangu for Penumbra, with Noviolet Bulawayo taking home the inaugural award for We Need New Names in 2013.

The prize calendar looks as follows:

Call to enter – 18th June 2015
Entry Deadline – 27th August 2015
Longlist announced – 12th November 2015
Shortlist announced – 12th December 2015
Grand Finale/Winner announced – 13th March 2016

Read more about the judges, and the Etisalat Prize for Literature:

Professor Ato Quayson / Ghana

Chair of Judges

Professor Ato Quayson is Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto. He studied at the University of Ghana and the University of Cambridge and was also a Fellow of Pembroke College, Director of the Centre for African Studies, and on the Faculty of English at Cambridge. He was the 2011/12 Distinguished Cornille Visiting Professor in the Humanities at the Newhouse Centre at Wellesley College; he held research fellowships at Wolfson College, Oxford (1994/95) and at the Du Bois Institute for African-American Studies at Harvard (2004). He is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Royal Society of Canada.


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