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Zimbabwe’s Bernard Matambo.

The Zimbabwean Bernard Matambo’s lyrical emigrant nonfiction, “Working the City,” published in Transition‘s issue 121 and named in Brittle Paper‘s list of the best pieces from 2016, has been selected for the Best American Essays 2017 anthology.

Best American Essays annually collects some of the best nonfiction and essays published in the US. This year’s anthology is guest-edited by Leslie Jamison, author of The New York Times-bestselling essay collection, The Empathy Exams.

“Working the City” was also awarded Transition‘s “Editor’s Choice” and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. And we are happy that a wider audience would get to see what got us so excited about it. Here is how we described it in our end-of-the-year list.

Matambo’s recollection of trying, with a friend, to leave Zimbabwe for America is “lyrical yet sobering” and sometimes humourous. From the generally tempered prose here occasionally emerges such gems as: “a clamor of voices piercing its way through the sunshine,” “Bald head bouncing…catching glints of the sun like an orb of polished metal,” “floating into the city like another leaf longing for a sail,” “the sun low and loud in my face,” “the sun full in my face,” “Another tree advertises a carpenter, the sign rusting like blood at the edges.” It is an often-cynical, mischievous gauge of the Let’s Run Away from Africa efforts and the difficulty of it. “The way people speak about getting a job over there,” he writes, “it’s like picking low-hanging fruit off a ripe tree.”

Bernard Matambo is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College, and an extremely popular one. In 2013, his students had to launch a petition to prolong his stay in the faculty. That same year, he received the Ohioana Library Association’s Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant.

Here is Transition‘s announcement.

Read “Working the City” HERE.

Congratulations to Bernard Matambo.

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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. His conversations appear in Africa in Dialogue, Bakwa, SPRINNG, and Dwartonline. 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.

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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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