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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 a writer, an 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. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop facilitated by Giles Foden. 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. He studied 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.

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

  1. Simeon Mpamugoh 2017/06/19 at 09:27 #

    Happy birthday dear Petina

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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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