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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, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction 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 Curator at 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 work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. 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 has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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