News Brief

Yaa Gyasi Makes The National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 List for 2016

Life keeps getting sweeter for Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi.


The 26-year-old Homegoing novelist has been hand-picked for The National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 list for 2016.

Her debut best-selling book that sold for over a million dollars traces the family tree of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi. Esi becomes a slave held captive in the dungeon of the very Cape Coast Castle that Effia resides in with her husband, a British soldier, until she is shipped to America where her descendents will be resigned to a similar fate. Gyasi explores themes such as Ghana’s collusion in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as well as the unspoken tensions between African-Americans and African immigrants.

Gyasi tells Al Jazeera The Stream’s hosts Femi Oke and Malika Bilalin on Tuesday:

The American dream is still very much denied [to] African-Americans. You still can have access to whole worlds as a black immigrant that you don’t get as African-American. I’ve certainly heard about how when percentages are given about how many black students are in a college, for example, typically there are large percentages of Ghanaians or Nigerians, or Haitians or Jamaicans or whatever, who also make up that group. Does that mean it’s denying African-Americans access to these same spaces? That’s a larger part of this conversation: what do we have access to and what don’t we have access to and what privileges are afforded African immigrants that aren’t afforded [African-Americans].

It’s the 11th year for 5 Under 35, which recognizes the contributions of five fiction writers whose debut work promises to leave an indelible mark on the literary world. Each year, the honorees are selected by a committee comprised of National Book Award Winners and Finalists and those previously honored.

In the case of Gyasi, she was nominated by none other than Between the World and Me author and National Correspondent for The AtlanticTa-Nehisi Coates, who received the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

An invitation-only ceremony will held on November 14 where the distinguished guest of honor will each receive a $1,000 prize.

Big up to Gyasi.

Click here for the full list of the 2016 honorees, and watch Gyasi's conversation with Al Jazeera's The Stream below.

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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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