Akwaeke Emezi has been awarded the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Africa Region) for her entry, “Who Is Like God?” The other regional winners are: “The Death of Margaret Roe” by Nat Newman (Pacific Region), “Drawing Lessons” by Anushka Jasraj (Asia Region), “The Naming of Moths” by Tracy Fells (Canada and Europe Region), and “The Sweet Sop” by Ingrid Persaud (Caribbean Region).
Akwaeke’s win is of great importance to us. We have published her writing: a sensuous story called “Threshold” in 2013 and a memoir of her participation in the Farafina Writing Workshop in 2015. A 2015 Miles Morland scholar, Akwaeke was shortlisted for the 2015 Wasafiri New Writing Prize and is a recipient of a 2017 Global Arts Fund. Her debut novel, Freshwater, will be out in Winter 2018 from Grove Atlantic. She describes herself as “an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist based in liminal spaces.” With her shortlisting, she joined the growing list of Brittle Paper-published writers who have won or been shortlisted for major writing prizes in 2017.
Alongside Akwaeke on the shortlist had been Diane Awerbuck, for “Naagmal,” and Kelechi Njoku, for “By Way of a Life’s Plot,” Kelechi who has also been published by us.
The 2017 Prize had received a record 6,000 entries. The judging panel comprised Zukiswa Wanner, Mahesh Rao, Jacqueline Baker, Jacob Ross, Vilsoni Hereniko, and the chair, Kamila Shamsie. Commenting on their decision, Shamsie said:
It speaks to the high quality of the shortlisted stories that the judges’ decisions were rarely straightforward – and it speaks to the high quality of the winners that none of the judges left the conversation unsatisfied by the choices we ended up with. These are engaging and moving stories that honour and understand the potential of the short story form to burrow in on intimate stories and also to give you vast canvases painted with precise strokes. They also reveal the extent to which human concerns cross borders while the ways in which those concerns are played out are always individual and specific.
Here is an excerpt from Akwaeke’s story:
My mother talked about God all the time, as if they were best friends, as if He was borrowing her mouth because maybe He trusted her that much or it was easier than burning bushes or He was just tired of thundering down from the skies and having no one listen to Him. I grew up thinking that He was folded into her body, very gently, like when she folded sifted icing sugar into beaten egg whites, those kinds of loving corners.
As part of Commonwealth Writers‘ partnership with Granta, stories by the regional winners will be published in Granta every Tuesday from 30 May until 27 June, “in order from East to West across the Commonwealth.” Akwaeke’s story will be published on 13 June. Here is the full publication schedule.
“The Death of Margaret Roe,” Nat Newman – 30 May.
“Drawing Lessons,” Anushka Jasraj – 6 June.
“Who is Like God,” Akwaeke Emezi – 13 June.
“The Naming of Moths,” Tracy Fells – 20 June.
“The Sweet Sop,” Ingrid Persaud – 27 June.
Congratulations, Akwaeke! Brittle Paper wishes you more success.