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Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo wins 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

The Promise of HopeSeven New Generation African PoetsMadman at KalifiThe Kitchen-Dweller's TestimonyFuchsia

Alert! Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo has been named the winner of the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets for her manuscript, Asmarani.

The Sillerman First Book Prize is coordinated by the African Poetry Book Fund, with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s literary journal, Prairie Schooner. These two organisations also run the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, which was won in January by South African poet Kobus Moolman.

Elhillo will receive a $1 000 cash prize and publication of her manuscript as part of the African Poetry Book Series by the University of Nebraska Press, to be released in 2017.

The judging panel for the Sillerman Prize is made up of the African Poetry Book Fund’s editorial board, including Chris Abani, Bernardine Evaristo, Matthew Shenoda, Gabeba Baderoon, John Keene and Kwame Dawes, who also serves as director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Prairie Schooner editor-in-chief.

The Secret History of Las VegasMr LovermanTahrir SuiteA hundred silencesCounternarrativesDuppy Conqueror

South African poet Baderoon says of Elhillo’s manuscript: “The poems demonstrate a riveting sense of the power of language. They are alert to history and formally compelling as well.

“There is an alluring sense of wholeness to the collection. The themes flow convincingly from poem to poem, and the voice is so confident that I trust the speaker to lead me through sensitive and risky territory.”

From African Poetry Book Fund:

Safia Elhillo is Sudanese by way of Washington, DC. A Cave Canem fellow and poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly, she received an MFA in poetry from the New School. Safia is a Puschcart Prize nominee and joint winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, also titled Asmarani, is forthcoming as part of New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tatu), from the African Poetry Book Fund with Akashic Books. Her work has also appeared in several publications and in the anthologies The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Again I Wait for This to Pull Apart.

African Poetry Book Fund also shared an excerpt from the poem “Date Night with Abdelhalim Hafez,” a celebrated Egyptian singer in the mid-20th century to whom many of the poems are addressed:

i’m not looking for anything serious       just someone to watch
my plants when i’m gone       [you can sing now if you want to]
they’re worried no one will marry me       i have an accent in every language


The 2015 winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize was Mahtem Shiferraw, whose book Fuchsia will be released in April. Ladan Osman won the 2014 edition, and her book The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony was published in spring 2015, while the inaugural winner of the prize was Clifton Gachagua, whose book Madman at Kilifi was released in 2014.

The prize does not have a set number of finalists, but as Dawes explains: “Each year a few manuscripts become serious contenders for the top award and those are important enough for us to name them as finalists. This year there were six such collections, including the winning manuscript. This is very exciting for African poetry.”

The five finalists for the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize this year are Nick Makoha, born in Uganda and living in London, for his manuscript Kingdom of Gravity; DM Aderibigbe, of Nigeria, for his manuscript Becoming My Mother’s Son; Viola Allo, born in Cameroon and living in California, for her manuscript Schoolgirl from Cameroon; Shittu Fowora, of Nigeria, for his manuscript Touch Machines; and Nebeolisa Okwudili, of Nigeria, for his manuscript Country.

“We are especially excited to have had a good showing of women poets in our general pool and among our finalists,” Dawes says. “We continue to be proactive about seeking out and encouraging women to complete and submit manuscripts for consideration.”

Submissions for the 2017 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets will open September 1. Manuscripts by African poets who have not yet published a full-length collection are eligible.

To learn more about the African Poetry Book Fund and its initiatives, visit its website or stay connected on Twitter or Facebook.

More information about Prairie Schooner is available here.

The Sillerman Prize is sponsored by philanthropists Laura and Robert FX Sillerman.

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Book details

  • Seven New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook boxed set by Ladan Osman, TJ Dema, Clifton Gachagua, Tsitsi Jaji, Nick Makoha, Warsan Shire, Len Verwey, edited by Chris Abani, Kwame Dawes
    EAN: 9781940646589
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Image courtesy of the African Poetry Book Fund

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Su’eddie Vershima Agema reviews Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John

Born on a TuesdayVerdict: carrot

Born on a Tuesday is a book worth reading, and will give useful insights into a people, their cultures and an idea of why certain things are the way they are in a part of Nigeria today. It will help a great deal though to remember that the work is fiction. No matter how closely related to events in history, it is simply a play of the author’s imagination, which should not be taken for the whole truth about the North.

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Jon Day reviews Blackass by A Igoni Barrett

BlackassVerdict: carrot

From the first sentence, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis confronts you with the inherent strangeness of the pact you make when you read fiction. Gregor Samsa has become an insect, Kafka says. Suspend your disbelief. Take it or leave it. A Igoni Barrett’s first novel — his third book — demands a similar response. Deeply indebted to Kafka, Blackass tells the story of Furo Wariboko, a 33-year-old unemployed man from Lagos, who awakes one day and finds himself transformed into an “oyibo”, or white man.

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The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma longlisted for 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize

Chigozie Obioma


The FishermenAlert! The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma has been included on the longlist for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize.

The Dylan Thomas Prize is awarded annually to the best eligible published literary work in English, written by an author aged 39 or under. It is the largest literary prize in the world for young writers, aimed at encouraging creative talent worldwide. The prize celebrates international literary excellence across all genres, and is open to poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

Nigerian author Obioma, whose debut novel last year received multiple nominations and was featured on many best-of lists, joins 11 other writers on the longlist. He is the only writer from the African continent.

Here are all the nominees:

  • Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (Fitzcarraldo Editions)​​
  • City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, (Jonathan Cape)​
  • The Tusk that did the Damage by Tania James (Harvill Secker [UK]; Alfred A Knopf [US])
  • Disinformation Frances by Leviston (Picador)
  • The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray)​
  • Physical by Andrew McMillan (Jonathan Cape)
  • We Don’t Know What We’re Doing by Thomas Morris (Faber & Faber)​​​​​
  • The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (ONE, an imprint of Pushkin Press)
  • Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont (Oneworld)
  • Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (Faber & Faber)​
  • The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador)
  • Find Me by Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The shortlist will be announced in March, and the winner revealed on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14 May 2016.

We’ll be holding thumbs for Obioma!

* * * * * * * *


Read the press release for more information:

A longlist of 12 books has today (20 January) been announced for the prestigious International Dylan Thomas Prize, sponsored by Swansea University.

The list includes works by four American authors, a Nigerian novelist, Manchester-based poet Andrew McMillan, Irish author Lisa McInerney, and Welsh short story writer, Thomas Morris.

‌Two of the books, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, and The Year of the Runaways by Sanjeev Sahota, were shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

Now in its tenth year, the £30,000 Prize is awarded to the best eligible published literary work in English, written by an author aged 39 or under. It is the largest literary prize in the world for young writers, aimed at encouraging creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence across all genres, and is open to poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

Dylan Thomas, the quintessential adolescent writer, was ideally suited to serve as an inspiration to young writers everywhere. The freshness and immediacy of his writing were qualities that he never lost. The Prize seeks to ensure that readers today will have the chance to savour the vitality and sparkle of a new generation of young writers.

Distinguished novelists, poets, a historian and a theatre and film director make up the judging panel for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize.

The judging panel:

  • Phyllida Lloyd CBE: award-winning British director of stage and screen, including Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady.
  • Professor Owen Sheers: novelist, poet, and playwright; Professor in Creativity at Swansea University.
  • Kamila Shamsie: author of six novels, including Burnt Shadows (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction).
  • Sarah Hall; author of five novels and a short story collection; winner of the Portico Prize for Fiction and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
  • Professor Kurt Heinzelman: poet, translator and scholar; professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Professor Dai Smith (chair of panel): historian and writer on Welsh arts and culture; Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University.

Dai Smith, chair of the judging panel, said: “Wow! The longlist exceeds all expectation in its range of genres and the breathtaking quality of the writing. At this stage the only certainty now is that the Judges will end up with an exceptionally strong short list of six stunningly gifted authors.”

Peter Stead, founder and president of the Prize, said: “The International Dylan Thomas Prize was set up to secure a Welsh link with the great global phenomenon of contemporary English writing and from the outset it attracted entries from every continent. We have been delighted to reward such talented writers and to welcome them into our schools and colleges. Now sponsored by Swansea University, the Prize is still very much ensuring, as with all our research and instruction, that the standards set are truly international. This is going to be a memorable year and we urge everyone to read these brilliant books.”

The 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize longlist:

  • Claire-Louise Bennett, Pond​ (Fitzcarraldo Editions)​​
  • Garth Risk Hallberg, City on Fire (Jonathan Cape)​
  • Tania James, The Tusk that did the Damage (Harvill Secker [UK]; Alfred A. Knopf [US])
  • Frances Leviston, Disinformation (Picador)
  • Lisa McInerney, The Glorious Heresies (John Murray)​
  • Andrew McMillan, Physical (Jonathan Cape)
  • Thomas Morris, We Don’t Know What We’re Doing (Faber & Faber)​​​​​
  • Chigozie Obioma, The Fishermen (ONE, an imprint of Pushkin Press)
  • Julia Pierpont, Among the Ten Thousand Things (Oneworld)
  • Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Faber & Faber)​
  • Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
  • Laura van den Berg, Find Me (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Prize shortlist will be announced in March, and the winner will be unveiled at a gala ceremony in Swansea University’s Great Hall on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14 May 2016.

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Sabo Kpade Reviews Blackass by A Igoni Barrett

BlackassVerdict: carrot

A first time novelist reinterpreting a well admired classic is a risky endeavour. The cynical expectation might be that said work will fall short of the original even before any evidence is tendered. Even if the reimagined tale manages to eclipse the original in scope and ambition (or word count), the mere fact that the tributary can easily be traced to its source lake relegates the novel to feeder status; the question then becomes just how much audacity the writer can bring to the old idea. The writer would do well to quickly concede points on originality and concentrate on putting on a bravura performance. And what a performance this is.

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Ikhide R Ikheloa Reviews Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John

Born on a TuesdayVerdict: carrot

The writer Elnathan John is something of a celebrity renegade in the African literary scene. He rules the waves on social media, this eccentric and eclectic Twitter Overlord who sits perched on an imaginary throne, dispensing carefully crafted snarky but profound tweets that throb and seethe with controlled rage and truth, tweets that often develop lives of their own in the re-tweeting and re-telling, as they utilize the magic of the multiplier effect to replicate and go viral in infinite directions. Elnathan could probably make a nice living by allowing ads on his Twitter site; he has the kinds of followers that make him an opinion – and possibly brand leader.

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Fiction Friday: Wole Talabi’s British Science Fiction Association Award-Longlisted Story

This Fiction Friday, read a short story by Nigerian author Wole Talabi that has been longlisted for a 2015 British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Award.

The BSFA longlists in the categories Novel, Short Story, Non-Fiction and Art were announced on Tuesday, and include six African authors.

Talabi’s story, “A Short History of Migration in Five Fragments of You”, is longlisted in the Short Story category. It was originally published in Omenana, a magazine edited by Chinelo Onwualu (who is also longlisted for a BSFA), in June 2015.

Talabi is an engineer by day, but writes and edits part time, mainly science fiction and fantasy. He is currently based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and edited the anthology These Words Expose Us in 2014.

A Short History of Migration in Five Fragments of You

Your name is Asake and you can tell that you are being taken south because the wind is in your face and the clayey redness of the soil is slowly becoming a yellow sandiness. The soil is all you see.

Everything else is a blur.

You scream for help in desperate, high-pitched shrieks but it seems there is no one willing to save you. Desperation claws at your belly like unanswered hunger.

You remember that you had only stopped walking briefly, pausing as you navigated your way back from your mother’s farm at the place where the Imu and Buse pathways met. You paused to make the seemingly mundane choice of which route to take when a powerful arm suddenly wrapped itself around your torso, hoisted you onto a sturdy shoulder and began to run. A moment was all it took.

Screaming even louder, you consider that you did not really need to go to the farm today, or any other day for that matter. There was no need for the daughter of the great hunter Ajiboyede, the niece of the Baale of Olubuse, to go to the farms – your family has never lacked anything. Your father’s lands began along the banks of river Elebiesu and ran all the way down to Olubuse’s limits where great big trees stand like soldiers guarding your uncle’s territory. But you went anyway because you like to work with your hands, you enjoy the feel of soil beneath your feet and you relish the sight of verdant life around you. You decided to go to the farm today because the quiet beauty of the rising sun at dawn had spread over the sky, cloudless and taut like a drum skin. You went seeking nature’s touch.

Now, you are being carried along a snaking pathway carved into the reeds that stand beside the river like a loyal spouse – a path that takes you far away from home. You writhe and wrestle and fight with all the might you can muster but it is futile. The hands that have you are iron and do not loosen their grip. You remember the stories that sad visitors from nearby villages would sometimes tell of children who had been kidnapped and sold to strange men from faraway lands, and you wonder if this is what is happening to you. Just then the wind carries the unmistakable briny tang of the ocean air to your nose.

You scream louder.


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“Africa is a Land Bristling with Too Many Stories”: 10 African Authors on Storytelling

The art of storytelling is integral to the African way of life. To celebrate this, here’s an excerpt from A Quotionary by Jenny Hobbs, a book published by Sunday Times Books:

Stories and Storytelling: Quotes to Stress the Importance Thereof


* * * * * * * * *

African writers come from a culture renowned for its stories and storytellers.

Burma Boy

In Nigeria there’s a tradition of people telling stories to pass the time but also to celebrate life. In very small towns like the one where I grew up, people would sit down in the evening and tell each other stories, and it didn’t matter if the story you were telling was one that everyone knew. What you have to do is improvise around it; you reinvent it.

- Biyi Bandele-Thomas

Stories of Africa

Stories are our friends, our counsellors and our teachers. They are a means of nurturing a moral culture in the hearts and minds of people. They stir the imagination, they bring together people and they break down barriers. It is a tradition we must never lose in the rush to the cities.

- Gcina Mhlophe

Things Fall Apart

It is the story that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No, neither do we own the story; rather it is the story that owns us and directs us. It is the thing that makes us different from cattle; it is the mark on the face that sets one people apart from their neighbours.

- Chinua Achebe

Call Me Woman

Things happen, people tell stories about them. Then – life passes quickly – the events and stories are faintly remembered or totally forgotten. But in the black communities of South Africa perhaps we remember our stories for a little longer than other people do. After all, for so many years now, we have owned our stories while owning so little else.

- Ellen Kuzwayo

Nothing But the Truth

There are so many stories to be told.

- John Kani

Home and Exile

There is nobody who doesn’t have a story.

- Chinua Achebe

We Should All Be Feminists

I’m such a believer in stories and how powerful stories are. Because stories are human and they draw you in; they’re not abstract arguments. In some ways it’s a safer space, so people who don’t necessarily agree with me politically can still get into that story.

- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie



We Need New Names

Stories should hit the core of lived experience.

- NoViolet Bulawayo

Songs of Enchantment

Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.

- Ben Okri


Though Okri does not always agree that the wealth of stories in Africa is a good thing:

A Time for New Dreams

Africa is a land bristling with too many stories and moods. This over-abundance of stories, this pollution, is a sort of chaos. A land of too many stories is a land that doesn’t necessarily learn from its stories. The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection.

- Ben Okri

Related links:

A Quotionary



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“A Writer Can Have Only One Language” – 5 Quotes on Multilingualism in Literature

5 Quotes on Multilingualism – a Blessing or a Curse for Writers?

A QuotionaryThe following five quotes – excerpted from A Quotionary: The Ultimate Collection of Quotations About Writing and Writers, by Jenny Hobbs – grapple with the issue of multilingualism and whether or not knowing more than one language hampers or helps the writer.

Do you think knowing multiple languages is beneficial to authors? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below.

Read the quotes:

Philip Larkin

A writer can have only one language, if language is going to mean anything to him.
- Philip Larkin


The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension.
- Ezra Pound

The Combat

We may speak English at the free market bazaar, but our moral choices and the trials of our daily existence – birth, death, worship, celebration and so on – are locked up in our mother tongues.
- Kole Omotoso


In Africa, language is not something we just use to communicate. You have to decorate it; the language has to be rich.
- Kgebetli Moele

The House of Fiction

If the writer has the mixed blessing of a foreign language spoken in the household of childhood, there is the broken language of more than one culture to fall back on.
- Elizabeth Jolley

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  • Pound/Joyce: The Letters of Ezra Pound to James Joyce, with Pound’s Critical Essays and Articles about Joyce by Ezra Pound, edited by Forrest Read
    EAN: 9780811201599
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“I Just Want to Tell True Stories” – 17 Inspiring Quotations by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"I Just Want to Tell True Stories" - 17 Inspiring Quotations by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
AmericanahWe Should All Be FeministsThe Thing Around Your NeckHalf of a Yellow SunPurple Hibiscus

We can’t get enough of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and when she speaks, we listen.

From the author of Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, We Should All Be Feminists, The Thing Around Your Neck and Purple Hibiscus, we bring you 17 of the best quotes on storytelling, feminism and politics.

Prepare to bask in her awesomeness:


* * * * * * * *


1. On being a feminist:

For me, feminism is about justice. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world that is more just. I’m a feminist because I want to live in a world where a woman is never told that she can or cannot or should or should not do anything because she is a woman. I want to live in a world where men and women are happier. Where they are not constrained by gender roles. I want to live in a world where men and women are truly equal. And that’s why I’m a feminist.

2. On the oppression of women:

I can’t not be angry. I don’t know how you can just be calm. My family says to me, “Oh, you’re such a man!” – you know, very lovingly … But of course I’m not, I just don’t see why I shouldn’t speak my mind.

3. On winning “Best of the Best” of The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction:

When you are writing you don’t know what is going to happen. You are alone in your study for months, for years. You write a book, you send it out to the world. It’s like sending out your child that you love, and not knowing if this child will be embraced by the world. So when it happens … For me this is a wondrous embrace, to be selected best of the best, and also because I think that the books that have won have been really remarkable books! I have a lot of respect for the books that not only have won the prize, but that have been shortlisted.

4. On Pope Francis:

Pope Francis inspires me. Not because of his much-touted humility — other popes who went along with papal pomp might merely have been tradition-compliant rather than lacking in humility — but because of his humanity.

5. In an interview with Zadie Smith, on writing strong female characters:

I hear from people, “Your female characters are so strong, how do you do that?”

For me, I’m writing about women who are familiar. Not to say that all the women I know are strong and have their shit together, they’re not. But to say that the idea of a woman being strong and simply being strong not to prove anything, or not to be unusual, is normal to me.

6. On makeup, gender injustice and privilege:

I wasn’t very interested in makeup until I was in my 20s, which is when I began to wear makeup. Because of a man. A loud, unpleasant man.

7. 13 quotes from Adichie’s Arthur Miller Freedom to Write lecture:

I’ve actually found that the older I get, the less interested I am in how the West sees Africa, and the more interested I am in how Africa sees itself.

8. On African writers:

I think the voices of the African diaspora are important too, but I think there’s often a silence in our voices from the continent.

The following quotes are excerpted from A Quotionary: The Ultimate Collection of Quotations About Writing and Writers, by Jenny Hobbs:


Language and style are very important to me. I am a keen admirer of good prose stylists and I can tell, right away, which writers pay attention to style. I care about the rhythm of a sentence. I care about word choice. I much respect poetic prose done well.


I just want to tell true stories.


When I start off I want to tell a story that I’m pleased with and that I hope somebody else will be connected to. I think by doing that one is challenging stereotypes, because the thing about stereotypes is that they’re not human, they’re not complex. So when you start to tell human and complex stories the hope is that people come away from those stories realising that the world is not just a single story. Our stories matter. Everybody’s story matters.


I’m such a believer in stories and how powerful stories are. Because stories are human and they draw you in; they’re not abstract arguments. In some ways it’s a safer space, so people who don’t necessarily agree with me politically can still get into that story.


The novels I love have an empathetic quality or emotional truth.


In the end I’m interested in what it means to be human. I think that’s what my writing is about: what it means to be a human being.


I always feel one step removed from everything. I’m always watching, looking for what I can mine for my fiction. I’m very curious about the world.


I am an unrepentant eavesdropper and a collector of stories. I record bits of overhead dialogue.

And one more from Goodreads:


Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.

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Image courtesy of The Times

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