Granta has released its prestigious once-in-a-decade Best of Young American Novelists list and it includes Ethiopia’s Dinaw Mengestu, Nigeria’s Chinelo Okparanta, and Ghana’s Yaa Gyasi.

The 21-writer list, regarded as one of the most accurate and influential predictors of literary impact, is in its third publication.

First released in 1997, it was followed by another in 2007, and as is usual with them, Granta have dedicated their entire Issue 139 to the 21 novelists of the 2017 class.

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 17: Dinaw Mengestu poses for a portrait on Monday, September 17, 2012 at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. (Photo by Eli Meir Kaplan/Getty Images for Home Front Communications)

Dinaw Mengestu’s inclusion comes ten years after his celebrated debut. One of only two African writers to have won a MacArthur “Genius” Grant—in 2012, the other being Adichie in 2008—the Ethiopian is the author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) which won the 2007 Guardian Best First Book Award and a 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize; How To Read the Air (2010) which won the 2011 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence; and All Our Names (2014) which was nominated for the Prix Femina etranger.

A Professor of Creative Writing at Georgetown University, this is Mengestu’s fourth time of appearing in a major list predicting impact. In 2007, he made the US National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” list. In 2010, he made The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” list alongside Adichie. In 2014, he made the Africa 39 list.

Chinelo Okparanta is making her second appearance on a Granta list. In 2012, she was included in the magazine’s “Six New Voices” list. Her short story, “America,” made the 2013 Caine Prize shortlist, and her “Fairness” won an O.Henry Award. Her 2013 short story collection Happiness, Like Water won the 2014 LAMBDA Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and was shortlisted for the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2015. Her first novel Under the Udala Trees (2015) won the 2016 LAMBDA Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and is currently on the shortlist of the 2017 Dublin International Literary Award.

 

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing, rumoured to have earned her Africa’s second million-dollar advance after Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, was published last year to ovation. It was a critics’ favourite and, early this year, cruised to a remarkable win of the US National Book Critics’ Circle’s John Leonard Prize. Its epic range—it spans three centuries—and structure has been much discussed, and we ran a feature on it just this week.

 

Mengestu, Chinelo and Gyasi join Uzodinma Iweala who was named in the 2007 class of this list.

Granta‘s sister list, the Best of Young British Novelists, had included the trio of Taiye Selasi, Helen Oyeyemi and Nadifa Mohammed in 2013, Ben Okri in 1993, and Buchi Emecheta in 1983.

Here are the eighteen other novelists of the Best of Young American Novelists 2017 class.

  • Jesse Ball.
  • Halle Butler.
  • Emma Cline.
  • Joshua Cohen.
  • Mark Doten.
  • Jen George.
  • Rachel B. Glaser.
  • Lauren Groff.
  • Garth Risk Hallberg.
  • Greg Jackson.
  • Sana Krasikov.
  • Catherine Lacey.
  • Ben Lerner.
  • Karan Mahajan.
  • Anthony Marta.
  • Ottessa Moshfegh.
  • Claire Vaye Watkins.
  • Esme Weijun Wang.

Filling the issue are stories from the 21 authors: Dinaw Mengestu contributes “This Is Our Descent,” Chinelo Okparanta has “All the Caged Things,” and Yaa Gyasi has “Leaving Gotham City.”

Their inclusion points to something we mentioned earlier this year: the acceptance, in this age when diversity is needed more than ever, of the potential of writing by Africans to shape the dynamics of American literature. This reflected, also, in the emergence of three Africans—all of whom are Nigerian—among the winners of the 2017 PEN America awards:  Helen Oyeyemi took home the PEN Open Book Award, and Angela Ajayi and Grace Oluseyi were among the twelve winners of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Prize for Emerging Writers.

Big congratulations to Mengestu, Chinelo and Gyasi!

Find our more in Granta.

Tags: , , , ,

About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young’s writing has been shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, the 2017 Gerald Kraak Award, and nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. His fiction has appeared in Transition (“A Tenderer Blessing,” 2015), The Threepenny Review (“Mulumba,” 2016), and Pride and Prejudice: African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice and Sexuality (“You Sing of a Longing,” 2017), an anthology of The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His work further appears in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays, Africa in Dialogue, and Brittle Paper, where he is submissions editor. He is the editor of the Art Naija Series: a sequence of concept-based e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness. The first anthology, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (Oct., 2016) focuses on cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June, 2017) focuses on professions. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and currently teaches English at another Nigerian university. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

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.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

Lesley Nneka Arimah Picked for the US National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” List

Lesley Nneka Arimah has been picked for the US National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” list of 2017, on the […]

The Photographer as an Osprey | John “Lighthouse” Oyewale | Essay

On 30 June, we published Work Naija: The Book of Vocations, an anthology of writing and visual art that explores the […]

Zukiswa Wanner Calls Out Misogyny in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe, Takes on Politicians and the Media

Zukiswa Wanner has called out misogyny in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe, taking on politicians and the media in the […]

Dinaw Mengestu and Nadifa Mohamed Have New Work in Freeman’s Magazine

Nadifa Mohamed

Dinaw Mengestu and Nadifa Mohammed both have new fiction forthcoming in the new fourth issue of Freeman’s magazine. Titled “The Future […]

The Brittle Paper Literary Awards: New Date for the Announcement of Winners

The announcement of the winners of the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards was scheduled for 23 September 2017. However, a change […]

The Reviews Are In! | Namwali Serpell Has High Praise for Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu

Screen-Shot-2017-09-20-at-4.57.42-PM-e1505944728679 copy

Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is one of the hit novels of 2017. A historical drama, it tells the story of an 18th […]