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Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

Jade Colbert Reviews Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala TreesVerdict: carrot

How are we to engage with the countries of the world where LGBT people face the worst forms of state-condoned violence?

This is the question underlining two novels released this fall, both starring queer protagonists. Under the Udala Trees, the first novel by Chinelo Okparanta, is about a queer woman growing up in Nigeria, where, today, same-sex relationships are criminalized and punishable with up to 14 years in prison, or, in the north, punishments that include death by stoning.

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Helon Habila Reviews Blackass by A Igoni Barrett

BlackassVerdict: stick

Here the novel, which began as a bold riff on Kafka’s Metamorphosis, begins to turn into a comedy of manners – which in itself, if sustained, wouldn’t have been a bad thing. Igoni Barrett’s greatest asset is his ability to satirise the ridiculous extents people, especially Lagosians, go to in order to appear important. His characters’ every foible is captured and amplified for effect. But his handling of plot is not so masterly; the introduction of Morpheus is one too many transformations.

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Andrew McMillan Becomes the First Poet to Win the 2015 Guardian First Book Award

Andrew McMillan Becomes the First Poet to Win the 2015 Guardian First Book Award

PhysicalAlert! The 2015 Guardian First Book Award has been won by Andrew McMillan, for his collection of poems, Physical.

Only two poets have ever made the shortlist for the £10 000 (about R215 000) prize in its 17-year history, and McMillan becomes the first poet to win it.

In the announcement, The Guardian calls Physical an “elegantly poised and intimate collection of poems”, and books editor Claire Armitstead said:

“It’s a thrilling development for us as poetry so rarely breaks through in generalist prizes,” she said. She cited Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1821 Defence of Poetry, in which he argued that “poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight”. Shelley’s assertion that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” might seem “a bit optimistic in our prosaic times”, Armitstead said, “but Andrew McMillan’s breathtaking collection shows that good poetry can and does still enlarge, replenish and delight”.

“It is wonderful that a collection so tightly focused on masculinity and gay love could have such a wide appeal, across age and gender,” she continued. “It surprised us all with the best sort of ambush, emerging from an extremely strong and vibrant shortlist as the unanimously agreed winner.”

McMillan is the son of Ian McMillan, one of the United Kingdom’s best known contemporary poets, although The Guardian points out that this is a connection he “kept quiet about”, apart from dedicating the book to his parents.

Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen was also nominated for the prize, one of many award lists the Nigerian author’s debut novel has appeared on.

Obioma won the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Fiction Award for last month and was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and the 2015 Centre For Fiction First Novel Prize, among others. The Man Booker went to Marlon James in the end, while the Centre for Fiction winner will be announced on 8 December this year.

The 2015 Guardian First Book Award shortlist was:

Man V. NaturePhysicalThe FishermenNothing Is True and Everything Is PossibleGrief is the Thing with FeathersThe Shore


  • Physical by Andrew McMillan (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Shore by Sara Taylor (William Heinemann)

The McMillans junior and senior tweeted their delight:

Watch a video of McMillan reading his work:

YouTube Preview Image

Related links:

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The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma Up for the 2015 Guardian First Book Award – Winner Announced Tonight

Chigozie Obioma

2015 has been a big year for Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma, with his “truly magnificent” debut novel being nominated for various big awards and included on a vast amount of “best of” lists.

The latest news regarding The Fishermen is that it has been shortlisted for the prestigious Guardian First Book Award, coming up against five other debut publications for the £10 000 (about R213 000) prize.

Obioma won the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Fiction Award for last month and was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and the 2015 Centre For Fiction First Novel Prize, among others. The Man Booker went to Marlon James in the end, while the Centre for Fiction winner will be announced on 8 December this year.

Here’s the shortlist for the 2015 Guardian First Book Award in full:

Man V. NaturePhysicalThe FishermenNothing Is True and Everything Is PossibleGrief is the Thing with FeathersThe Shore


  • Physical by Andrew McMillan (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Shore by Sara Taylor (William Heinemann)

The winner will be announced tonight and, naturally, we are holding thumbs for Obioma!

Related links:

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The Guardian featured short extracts and introductions by the the authors to all the shortlisted works. Read what Obioma writes in and about The Fishermen:

Recently, I stumbled on a line in The Fishermen that seemed to have come directly out of memory rather than from the pages of the book: “Did you do this to your blood brother?” I could recall instances where, as a child, when something happened between my siblings and me, that same question was asked with a kind of urgency that lent unarguable potency to the idea that your brother or sister was so special and somewhat indispensable that to hurt him or her was to hurt oneself. The Fishermen is an exploration of this kind of tie, and what it is that can snap it, or destroy it.

I grew up with many siblings, and always knew that one day I would write a story about the experience. But, strangely, this novel is not about my experience, but was merely inspired by it. When they were children, two of my older brothers had the kind of sibling rivalry that ignited little fires of violence. But when I learned that, as men aged almost 30, they had become very close, I began to ponder on what can rip families apart, especially close-knit ones. At around the same time, I had been reading a book in which I had encountered a phrase that stuck out to me: “A great civilisation is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” So, I thought, can this be applied to just about any entity, such as a family?

Catherine Flood reflected on the process of narrowing down the list to come up with the finalists for the 2015 Guardian First Book Award:

There is something wonderfully expectant about a prize for a first book, particularly one that welcomes first-time writers regardless of genre, category, form or language.

The varied rollcall of past recipients (Yiyun Li, Jonathan Safran Foer, Petina Gappah, Zadie Smith, Dinaw Mengestu among them), and the Guardian first book award’s international status, makes the reading journey more of a quest than – as some book awards seem to be – a standard nod to likely candidates.

Alison Flood wrote a reflection on the shortlist. Read her article:

Announcing the shortlist, Guardian books editor Claire Armitstead said that McMillan’s poems had “totally disarmed” her. “As a middle-aged, heterosexual woman, I’d assumed they wouldn’t be for me, but I found them tender and sexy and entirely relatable,” said Armitstead. “They carried me straight back to my teenage infatuation with the work of Thom Gunn, another gay poet, who is one of McMillan’s touchstones for Physical.”

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A Renewed Interest in Literature from Africa: Trailblazer Cassava Republic Press to Launch in the United Kingdom


Leading African publishing house Cassava Republic Press has announced that it will be launching in the United Kingdom, in order to “spotlight the vibrancy and diversity of prose by African writers on the continent and in the diaspora”.

Cassava is planning to kick off operations in the UK in April 2016, with a launch list that includes Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday, Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, Leye Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist, HJ Golakai’s The Lazarus Effect and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blossoms.

It’s a prestigious list. John has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African writing twice, Manyika was the chair of judges for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature, while Ibrahim was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2013, and currently serves as a judge for the Short Story Day Africa competition.

The internationally acclaimed The Lazarus Effect was longlisted for the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, and shortlisted for both the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize. Golakai’s new novel, The Score, was recently released in South Africa (read an excerpt).

Cassava Republic Press has its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, although founder Bibi Bakare-Yusuf is now based in London. Bakare-Yusuf will be joined by Emma Shercliff, formerly MD of Macmillan English Campus and head of export sales at Hodder Education.

“It is exciting to be launching Cassava Republic Press in the UK both as an intervention and as an opportunity to introduce the diversity of writings coming out of the continent,” Bibi Bakare-Yusuf (above) said in a press statement. “What we are doing is unprecedented: an African publishing house establishing a base in the UK after nearly 10 years in Africa rather than the reverse. This is the birthing of African publishing onto the world stage.”

Shercliff adds: “Having worked with Cassava Republic in Abuja for almost two years, I am delighted to be starting this new venture with Bibi in London.

“The feedback we have already received from the UK trade has been fantastic; there is a renewed interest in literature from Africa and we feel particularly excited about introducing some very special authors who are already celebrated in Africa, but practically unknown in the UK, to a wider audience.”

In partnership with the British Council as part of their UK/Nigeria 2015-16 programme, Cassava Republic Press will showcase the breadth of talent on the list across UK literature festivals next April. Today’s announcement coincides with a BBC Radio 4 special on the Nigerian literary scene, entitled ‘Writing a New Nigeria’, to be broadcast at 11.30am on Thursday 26th November and Thursday 3rd December, featuring publishers Bibi Bakare-Yusuf and Emma Shercliff and Cassava Republic Press authors Elnathan John, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and Toni Kan.

As Chad Felix of Melville House says, “The stage is set.”

In the nine years since the founding of Cassava Republic, the house has curated an impressive list, which includes authors Teju Cole, Man Booker Prize-nominee Chigozie Obioma (The Fisherman), Mukoma wa Ngugi (whose Nairobi Heat and Black Star Nairobi were published by Melville House in 2011 and 2013 respectively), and Caine Prize-nominee Elnathan John (Born on a Tuesday). In addition to literary and crime fiction, the house also publishes a variety of non-fiction and children’s titles.


In a video published two years ago, Bakare-Yusuf explains why she started Cassava Republic Press, and what her plans are:

“When I moved to Nigeria as an academic, there were all these interesting African writers being published abroad, and they’re not available locally – no one’s heard of them,” she says. “So I decided, ‘okay, I’m going to start a publishing company’. Cassava Republic Press. I knew nothing, nothing nothing nothing, about publishing! I knew everything about reading and writing, but nothing about the business of publishing.

“150 million people. 77 million of them young people under 30. How do we get those people reading? Those are the people I’m actually interested in converting. We want to convert minds. We want to convert them to question who they are, and also question society.”

Watch the video:

Cassava Republic Press from jolyon hoff on Vimeo.

Related stories:

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Bibi Bakare-Yusuf photo courtesy of Vimeo

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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.

Bom BoynullAfrica39

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

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The Next Big Thing: Under the Udala Trees, the Debut Novel from Nigerian Author Chinelo Okparanta

Happiness, Like WaterUnder the Udala TreesUnder the Udala Trees

Under the Udala Trees, the debut novel by award-winning Nigerian author Chinelo Okparanta, is making waves internationally, and comes recommended by Zakes Mda.

The novel will be available locally from Jonathan Ball Publishers in March 2016. Scroll to the end for an excerpt.

Okparanta’s short story “America” was shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, and her first book, the collection short stories Happiness, Like Water, was shortlisted for the the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature and won the 2014 Lambda Literary Award. She was one of Granta’s New Voices for 2012, and was featured on the Guardian’s list of the best African fiction of 2013.

Zakes Mda says: “A searing, yet delicately nuanced, story of an age of innocence first shattered by the vulgarity of war and its aftermath, and then by forbidden desire and religious intolerance.

Under the Udala Trees is narrated in lyrical and lucid prose, in a wise and compassionate voice. It bowled me over.”

Okparanta was born and raised in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and lives in New York. She received her BS from Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

In a recent interview with The Rumpus, Okparanta spoke about the status of LGTBQ rights in Nigeria, emphasising that while the United States has legalised gay marriage, the situation is very different in her home country. She also stresses that persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is by no means a thing of the past in the US either: “If we say to ourselves that there is no more homophobia in the United States, that the LGBTQ community no longer faces discrimination here, we are simply deceiving ourselves.”

Rumpus: In the novel’s epilogue you mention a “new generation of Nigerians with a stronger bent towards love than fear.” But, also in the epilogue, you document a brutal beating of a lesbian couple and in your author’s note you write about the 2014 laws criminalizing same-sex relationships with punishments ranging from fourteen years in prison in some parts of the county to death by stoning in others. How do you see LGTBQ rights gaining traction in Nigeria? What is the role of story and narrative in that?

Okparanta: The situation in Nigeria is not all that different from many places around the world. After the publication of this book, I’ve been shocked by a handful of people here in the United States who have come up to me and said things along the lines of, “Well, we’ve moved on from that. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States, so what’s the point writing that book?” I look at the people making the statement and I can just smell the privilege wafting out of them like perfume. And, I think to myself: this is the problem with privilege. When we live in our own privileged little bubble, it is convenient to pretend that all is well with the world, that everyone enjoys the same privileges that we do.

We conveniently forget that there are others, sometimes our very own next-door neighbors, who suffer in ways that we do not. I think the novel is a testament to this: a reminder that just because we perceive ourselves free does not mean that everyone is indeed free. [...]

Molly Rose Quinn, writing for Lithub, says Under the Udala Trees is “clearly in the tradition of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Edwidge Danticat, and others whom Okparanta calls in her acknowledgements ‘my predecessors, my guiding lights’,” but adds that Okparanta does something further: “Here we have a narrative of war, of LGBTQ Nigerians, and of Nigerians of faith.”

In a conversation with NPR, Okparanta speculates on what the reception of the novel will be in Nigeria: “Maybe they think, ‘What is this this girl doing, writing these homosexual things?’ But maybe with time they will acknowledge to themselves that I am just doing something that is humanistic.”

Listen to the podcast:

About the book

One day in 1968, at the height of the Biafran civil war, Ijeoma’s father is killed and her world is transformed forever. Separated from her grief-stricken mother, she meets another young lost girl, Amina, and the two become inseparable. Theirs is a relationship that will shake the foundations of Ijeoma’s faith, test her resolve and flood her heart.

In this masterful novel of faith, love and redemption, Okparanta takes us from Ijeoma’s childhood in war-torn Biafra, through the perils and pleasures of her blossoming sexuality, her wrong turns, and into the everyday sorrows and joys of marriage and motherhood. As we journey with Ijeoma we are drawn to the question: what is the value of love and what is the cost?

A triumphant love story written with beauty and delicacy, Under the Udala Trees is a hymn to those who’ve lost and a prayer for a more compassionate world. It is a work of extraordinary beauty that will enrich your heart.

About the author

Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. She was one of Granta’s New Voices for 2012 and her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Her story “America” was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in African Writing. She is a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award for her debut short story collection, Happiness, Like Water.

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Read an excerpt from Under the Udala Trees:


Midway between Old Oba-Nnewi Road and New Oba-Nnewi Road, in that general area bound by the village church and the primary school, and where Mmiri John Road drops off only to begin again, stood our house in Ojoto. It was a yellow-painted two-story cement construction built along the dusty brown trails just south of River John, where Papa’s mother almost drowned when she was a girl, back when people still washed their clothes on the rocky edges of the river.

Ours was a gated compound, guarded at the front by a thicket of rose and hibiscus bushes. Leading up to the bushes, a pair of parallel green hedges grew, dotted heavily in pink by tiny, star-like ixora flowers. Vendors lined the road adjacent to the hedges, as did trees thick with fruit: orange, guava, cashew, and mango trees. In the recesses of the roadsides, where the bushes rose high like a forest, even more trees stood: tall irokos, whistling pines, and a scattering of oil and coconut palms. We had to turn our eyes up toward the sky to see the tops of these trees. So high were the bushes and so tall were the trees.

In the harmattan, the Sahara winds arrived and stirred up the dust, and clouded the air, and rendered the trees and bushes wobbly like a mirage, and made the sun a blurry ball in the sky.

In the rainy season, the rains wheedled the wildness out of the dust, and everything took back its clarity and its shape.

This was the normal cycle of things: the rainy season followed by the dry season, and the harmattan folding itself within the dry. All the while, goats bleated. Dogs barked. Hens and roosters scuttled up and down the roads, staying close to the compounds to which they belonged. Striped swordtails and monarchs, grass yellows and redtops — all the butterflies — flitted leisurely from one flower to the next.

As for us, we moved about in that unhurried way of the butterflies, as if the breeze was sweet, as if the sun on our skin was a caress. As if slow paces allowed for the savoring of both. This was the way things were before the war: our lives, tamely moving forward.

But in 1967, the war barged in and installed itself all over the place. By 1968, the whole of Ojoto had begun pulsing with the ruckus of armored cars and shelling machines, bomber planes and their loud engines sending shock waves through our ears.

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Author image courtesy of Ayiba magazine

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The 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature Longlist has been Released – Including 6 South Africans

The Story of Anna P, as Told by HerselfWhat About MeeraBy Any MeansShadow SelfThe ReactiveWhat Will People Say
nullTram 83The Fishermen

Alert! The longlist for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature has been revealed, including six South African authors.

The Etisalat Prize is awarded annually to a work of first fiction of over 30 000 words, published in the last 24 months and written by authors of African citizenship. Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo won the inaugural Etisalat Prize for We Need New Names in 2013, and Songeziwe Mahlangu won the 2014 edition for Penumbra.

The third annual Etisalat Prize comes with prize money of £15 000 (about R325 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.

The 2015 Etisalat Prize longlist of nine books is:

Heading up this year’s judging panel is literary critic Ato Quayson from Ghana, director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. Joining him on the panel are writer, editor and journalist Molara Wood from Nigeria and our very own Zukiswa Wanner, journalist and author of, among other titles, London – Cape Town – Joburg.

Judging Panel’s comments:

Professor Ato Quayson: “The range of submissions for the Etisalat Prize this represents the vitality of literary writing on the continent, and the longlist is a selective showcase of the best to be found. The subjects covered in the longlist are so fascinating and varied that it would take another novel just to describe them all. Magnificent!”

Zukiswa Wanner: “The books on the longlist evoked many emotions in me as a judge and as a reader for the originality of their plots and the beauty of the language used. I know I shall be revisiting and gifting to friends many of them long after the winner has been announced.”

Molara Wood: “The longlisted books push the boundaries in their themes and inventive use of language. This is a rich array of bold new writing on what it means to be human in the world today, by irresistible African voices.”

The judges now have the task of selecting a shortlist of three at a retreat in the Seychelles in December. The shortlisted writers will go on a multi-city sponsored tour to be announced in December 2015 and will also have 1,000 copies of their books purchased by Etisalat for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across the Continent.

Penny Busetto, longlisted for The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself, was recently awarded the 2014/15 University of Johannesburg Debut Prize. ZP Dala recently won the Inaugural Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Award for What About Meera.

Elsa Silke’s Afrikaans translation of Shadow Self, Skaduself, won the 2015 South African Translator’s Institute (SATI) Award.

The French original of Tram 83 was a French Voices 2014 grant recipient and won the Grand Prix du Premier Roman des SGDL, and was shortlisted for numerous other awards, including the Prix du Monde. The novel was translated by Robert Glasser, winning a 2015 PEN Translates Award.

Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen is perhaps the most high-profile debut on the list, having already been shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and winning the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Fiction Award. He’s also currently in the running for a Goodreads Choice Award.

The Etisalat Prize for Literature is unique in that it also aims to promote the publishing industry at large and will therefore purchase 1000 copies of all shortlisted books which will be donated to various schools, book clubs and libraries across the African continent.

Etisalat Prize history:

Book details

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Sarah Lotz and Chigozie Obioma Nominated for 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards

Sarah Lotz and Chigozie Obioma Nominated for 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards

Day FourThe FishermenAlert! Sarah Lotz’s Day Four and Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen have been nominated for 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards, the only major book awards to be decided by readers.

Nigerian Obioma’s first novel has been making waves internationally; it was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and won the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Fiction Award. The Fisherman is up for Best Debut Goodreads Author.

Lotz has made the semifinals in the Best Horror category with Day Four, which is the follow-up to the bestselling, British Fantasy Award-winning The Three.

Horror legend Stephen King is a big Lotz fan, and recommended Day Four on Twitter, calling it “the cruise ship from hell”.

If you haven’t read it yet and that doesn’t convince you, Day Four also has a kick-ass animated cover:

Semifinal Round voting for the Goodreads Choice Awards closes on 15 November, and the Final Round starts on 17 November and closes on 23 November. The winners are usually announced in early December.

Elon Musk

Ashlee Vance’s biography of South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk: Inventing the Future is up for the Best Science & Technology Award.


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Obioma author image: Facebook

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“Avowed Racist” HP Lovecraft will No Longer Represent the World Fantasy Award, 4 Years After Nnedi Okorafor’s Initial Call

BintiLagoonWho Fears DeathThe Book of PhoenixLagoonKabu Kabu

It was announced on Monday that winners of the World Fantasy Award will no longer receive a bust of HP Lovecraft as their trophy. The decision was made in the wake of growing discomfort among authors who regard Lovecraft as an inappropriate figure owing to his “fundamental racism”.

The Guardian reports:

The World Fantasy Award trophy will no longer be modelled on HP Lovecraft, it has been announced, following a campaign last year that called the author out as an “avowed racist” with “hideous opinions”.

The change was revealed at the World Fantasy Convention on Sunday, where David Mitchell took the top award, the best novel prize, for The Bone Clocks. It beat titles by authors including Jeff VanderMeer, Robert Jackson Bennett, Jo Walton and Katherine Addison to the best novel prize, with other winners at the Saratoga Springs convention including Ramsey Campbell and Sheri S Tepper, who took life achievement awards.

Daniel José Older, who started a petition to introduce the change last year, tweeted:

Jeff VanderMeer tweeted:

In 2011, Nigerian-American fantasy and science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor received the World Fantasy Award for her novel, Who Fears Death. She was the first black person to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel since its inception in 1975.

In a blogpost at the time, the author recalled showing her trophy to a friend, who reacted by introducing her to a poem Lovecraft had written in 1912 entitled “On the Creation of Niggers”.

On the Creation of Niggers (1912)
by HP Lovecraft

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.

Okorafor was enraged. She decided to find out what other authors had to say about Lovecraft’s racism, and took to Facebook, where several authors (including Steve Barnes and Jeff VanderMeer) weighed in. The previous year’s World Fantasy Award winner China Miéville, who’d done extensive research on the horror writer, said that “the depth and viciousness of Lovecraft’s racism is known” to him and that it goes further than mere racism; his entire oeuvre is “inspired by and deeply structured with race hatred”. Miéville referred to Michel Houellebecq, who said that it was “racism itself” that raised in Lovecraft a “poetic trance”.

Okorafor writes: “This is something people of color, women, minorities must deal with more than most when striving to be the greatest that they can be in the arts: The fact that many of The Elders we honour and need to learn from hate or hated us.”

Read the article:

Do I want “The Howard” (the nickname for the World Fantasy Award statuette. Lovecraft’s full name is “Howard Phillips Lovecraft”) replaced with the head of some other great writer? Maybe. Maybe it’s about that time. Maybe not. What I know I want is to face the history of this leg of literature rather than put it aside or bury it. If this is how some of the great minds of speculative fiction felt, then let’s deal with that… as opposed to never mention it or explain it away. If Lovecraft’s likeness and name are to be used in connection to the World Fantasy Award, I think there should be some discourse about what it means to honor a talented racist.

I loved China’s way of dealing with his “Howard”. He said:
“So where does that leave the World Fantasy Award? Well, in my case, I have always done something very specific and simple. I consider the award inextricable from but not reducible to Lovecraft himself. Therefore, I was very honoured to receive the award as representative of a particular field of literature. And the award itself, the statuette of the man himself? I put it out of sight, in my study, where only I can see it, and I have turned it to face the wall. So I am punishing the little fucker like the malevolent clown he was, I can look at it and remember the honour, and above all I am writing behind Lovecraft’s back. ”

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