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The brilliant Zimbabwean novelist Petina Gappah, who is Brittle Paper‘s 2016 Literary Person of the Year, had her birthday on 15 June. But rather than wait for our gifts, she decided to surprise us with a big one.

Here is her post on Facebook.

Petina Gappah’s next book is ready! As I write this, the book would most probably be with her agent.

She is one of our most hardworking writers, we’ve always known, but three books in two years is simply mind-blowing.

Petina’s first fiction book, the short story collection An Elegy for Easterly, was a big debut. It won The Guardian Best First Book Award in 2009 and was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.

Her second, the novel The Book of Memory, earned nominations for the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize, the 2016 Prix Femina etranger, and the 2017 PEN Open Book Award. Her third is another short story collection, Rotten Row.

Now she has a fourth. The title on the manuscript in the photo is The Last Journey of Doctor Livingstone (from the Interior to the Coast of Africa as Narrated by His African Companions). A history book. Or historical fiction? No, history book. Or really fiction? Whichever it is, we’re loving that it’s almost ready.

The manuscript of Petina Gappah’s fourth book. Photo from Petina Gappah’s Facebook.

Last month, Petina debuted, on our platform, an advice series for young writers titled “Tete Petina.” The first piece in the series, about the Caine Prize and young writers’ hope for its validation, has generated an important conversation on what it really takes to have a successful writing career.

But that wasn’t the first time Petina was taking the lead in things. In April, she contributed to an important conversation on misogyny in literature. Last year, when she was named Brittle Paper‘s Literary Person of 2016, it was partly for a most remarkable act of artistic solidarity in striking a one-of-kind deal with her UK publisher to make her book available and cheaper in Zimbabwe. Here is part of her citation:

By taking on such a task, Gappah extends the sphere of the author’s responsibility considerably. It’s one thing to publish a book and be content to let the book do its usual rounds through London, New York and Paris. But it takes a certain kind of artistic commitment to take on the financial risk of making one’s books available to African readers. Gappah has said she’s learned a lot from the experiment and hopes it becomes the springboard for a sustainable book distribution model. We hope so too.

This award is really just a thank you note to Gappah for giving us, first and foremost, the rare gift of beautiful stories. But we would also like her to know that her contributions to a sense of community around African writing and literary culture have not gone unnoticed.

Here’s to a leading writer who is brilliant, and fun, and hardworking, and helpful. Happy birthday, Petina! Brittle Paper wishes you the best.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he got an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies and English & Literary Studies. He taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

One Response to “Happy Birthday, Petina Gappah! | Brilliant Zimbabwean Novelist Celebrates with a Special Gift” Subscribe

  1. Simeon Mpamugoh June 19, 2017 at 9:27 am #

    Happy birthday dear Petina

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