News Brief

These 4 African Writers Are Killing It This Week In the Literary World

Here are some African writers who've recently won or been shortlisted for major literary awards.

African writers are out here flourishing.


Just last week, we wrote about Nigerian, science-fiction writer, Tomi Adeyemi, whose debut novel—yet to be published—is being adapted into a feature-film by Lionsgate.

And it doesn't stop there.

Several writers are penning transformative stories and expanding the scope of African literature in the process.

Today, four more writers have landed on our radar, who've either won or been shortlisted for major literary awards this week alone. We highlight them below.

Imbolo Mbue

The Cameroonian writer just won the $15,000 PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award, considered “America's largest peer-juried prize for fiction," for her debut novel, Behold the Dreamers.

The book, which borrows themes from, Mbue's own life, tells the story of Jende Jonga, a man from Cameroon with hopes of settling his family in the U.S.

“This story was influenced by people I've met who are trying to get papers, trying to become citizens," she told the Washington Post last year. “It is something that pretty much every immigrant dreams of." One of her goals was to show “the pain of illegal immigration for the people who live it. Because right now people hear, 'Oh, 9 million illegal immigrants!' and they do not think about the stories behind those numbers, those people, and the struggles of living without papers."

Ayobami Adebayo

The Nigerian author has been shortlisted for this year's Bailey Prize for Women in Fiction for her debut Stay With Me, a fictional tale of the challenges of motherhood and marriage set in 1980s Nigeria.

Here's a synopsis of the book via BBC :

Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage to Akin is to have a child. When his family insist he takes a second wife she is livid with jealousy and becomes desperate to get pregnant before her rival.

She's the fourth African woman to be nominated for the award, and the only first-time novelist on the 2017 list. Previous winners of the award—which comes with a 30,000 pound prize—include Chimamanda Adichie and Zadie Smith.

Akwaeke Emezi and Kelechi Njoku

Two African writers have been shortlisted for this year's Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Brooklyn-based, Nigerian writer Akwaeke Emezi has been nominated for the story Who Is Like God? Her debut novel Freshwater is set to arrive next year. The author was a Miles Morland scholar in 2015.

Nigerian wordsmith, Kelechi Njoku, the West Africa Regional Prize winner of the 2014 Writivism Short Story Competition, has been shortlisted for his short story “By Way of a Life Plot."




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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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