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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.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young was born in Aba, Nigeria and attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A finalist for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, his short stories include: “A Tenderer Blessing,” which appears in Transition Magazine and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015; “Mulumba,” which appears in The Threepenny Review; and “You Sing of a Longing,” which was shortlisted for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award and appears in Pride and Prejudice, an anthology by The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His essays appear in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays and in Brittle Paper where he is Deputy Editor. His interviews appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa Magazine, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. He is the editor 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. A postgraduate student of African Studies, he currently teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu, Nigeria. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

2 Responses to “Akwaeke Emezi Awarded the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa Region” Subscribe

  1. Obinna Ozoigbo 2017/05/23 at 03:58 #

    Akwaeke, you made it at last! Wonderful! Ever since I bumped into that photo of yours as a baby in your father’s arms, bless the Commonwealth Foundation, I’ve been ”stalking” you and your works online. Keep writing, keep winning, keep trusting in your Maker who gives us the power to write. Who is like God? Of course, there is no one. We return all the glory to Him. I’m proud of you! Jisie ike.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Writivism Short Story Prize has gone to Nigeria’s Munachim Amah. He won for his short story, “Stolen Pieces.” He will receive the $400 prize money. - VickyBonsFictions - 2017/08/22

    […] on the continent in 2017 alone: Romeo Oriogun’s Brunel Prize, Jowhor Ile’s Etisalat Prize, Akwaeke Emezi’s Commonwealth Prize. And others, also: Shade Mary-Ann Olaoye and Jonathan Durunguma’s Okike Prize. We have also […]

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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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