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Diane Awerbuck photo from Books Live. Akwaeke Emezi photo from Vimeo. Kelechi Njoku photo from Brittle Paper.

The shortlist for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize was announced hours ago, and on the 21-strong list are Diane Awerbuck, Akwaeke Emezi and  Kelechi Njoku.

Diane Awerbuck, shortlisted for her “Nagmaal,” won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book and the 2014 Short Story Day Africa Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Caine Prize. Akwaeke Emezi, a 2015 Miles Morland scholar, 2015 Wasafiri New Writing Prize shortlistee and recipient of a 2017 Global Arts Fund, is on the list for her “Who Is Like God?” Her debut novel, Freshwater, will be out in 2018. Kelechi Njoku, West Africa Regional Prize winner of the 2014 Writivism Short Story Competition, is chosen for his “By Way of a Life Plot.”

The presence of Akwaeke Emezi and Kelechi Njoku is of huge importance to us: we’ve published Akwaeke Emezi’s fiction and nonfiction and an interview with Kelechi Njoku.

The 2017 year recorded a record number of submissions: 6,000. Here is what the novelist Kamila Shamsie, the chair of the judges, said of the shortlist:

The extraordinary ability of the short story to plunge you into places, perspectives and emotions and inhabit them fully in the space of only a few pages is on dazzling display in this shortlist. The judges weren’t looking for particular themes or styles, but rather for stories that live and breathe. That they do so with such an impressive range of subject matter and tone has been a particular pleasure of re-reading the shortlisted stories. The geographic spread of the entries is, of course, in good part responsible for this range – all credit to Commonwealth Writers for structuring this prize so that its shortlists never seem parochial.

The Prize’s judging panel is comprised of writers who each represent the five regions of the Commonwealth. The 2017 judges are Zukiswa Wanner, for Africa; Mahesh Rao, for Asia; Jacqueline Baker, for Canada and Europe; Jacob Ross, for the Caribbean; and Vilsoni Hereniko, for the Pacific.

Here are the other shortlistees.

  • “An Enquiry into Morality,” Tom Vowler (UK).
  • “Close to Home,” Jinny Koh (Singapore).
  • “Cursing Mrs Murphy,” Roland Watson-Grant (Jamaica).
  • “Drawing Lessons,” Anushka Jasraj (India).
  • “Echolocation,” Sarah Jackson (UK).
  • “Gauloises Blue,” Ruth Lacey (Australia).
  • “Gypsy in the Moonlight,” Caroline Gill (Canada).
  • “Harbour,” Chloe Wilson (Australia).
  • “Hot Pot,” Jasmine Sealy (Canada).
  • “The Sweet Sop,” Ingrid Persaud (Trinidad and Tobago).
  • “The Naming of Moths,” Tracy Fells (UK).
  • “The Dying Wish,” Caroline MacKenzie (Trinidad and Tobago).
  • “The Death of Margaret Roe,” Nat Newman (Australia).
  • “The Big, Insignificant History of Peter Abraham Stanhope,” Mary Rokonadravu (Fiji).
  • “Swimmer of Yangtze,” Yiming Ma (Canada).
  • “Shopping,” Jon Lewis-Katz (Trinidad and Tobago).
  • “Immunity,” Damon Chua (Singapore).
  • “Numb,” Myfanwy McDonald (Australia).

Big congratulations to Diane Awerbuck, Akwaeke Emezi and Kelechi Njoku! We wish them luck in the final round.

See all the details on Commonwealth Writers.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017), for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. His conversations appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (October 2016), focuses on Nigerian cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. Born in Aba, he combined history and literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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