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The Somalian poet Ladan Osman will be judging the 2018 Neustadt Prize.

The 2018 Neustadt Prize judges have been announced, and among them, in a very happy coincidence, are the 2014 and 2015 winners of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets: Ladan Osman and Mahtem Shifferaw. They join seven other jurors: Alisa Ganieva, Adnan Mahmutović, Dipika Mukherjee, Achy Obejas, Sasha Pimentel, Zia Haider Rahman, and Major Jackson.

Referred to as the “American Nobel Prize in Literature,” the biennial $50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature is awarded for an author’s body of work and sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and its publication, World Literature Today. Thirty of its winners, nominees or judges have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

The Somali-American poet Ladan Osman’s work centers on her Somali and Muslim heritage. She was awarded the 2014 Sillerman First Book Prize for her collection, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony, which was subsequently published by the University of Nebraska Press in conjunction with Amalion Press.

The Ethiopian poet Mahtem Shiferraw.

A holder of an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, the Ethiopian poet and visual artist Mahtem Shiferraw received the 2015 Sillerman First Book Prize for her collection, Fuchsia,  which was published by the University of Nebraska Press. Her poetry chapbook, Behind Walls & Glass, was published by Finishing Line Press. Her work has appeared in The 2River View, Cactus Heart Press, Blood Lotus Literary Journal, Luna Luna Magazine, Mandala Literary Journal, Blackberry: A Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Bitter Oleander Press, and Callaloo.

It is hard not to dwell on the significance of two winners of an African poetry prize for first books judging a prize as high-profile as the Neustadt Prize so soon. It is a powerful statement on the renaissance brought about by the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) which administers the Sillerman Prize. The APBF also administers the Brunel International Prize for African Poetry—which was founded by Bernadine Evaristo—and the Glenna Luschei Prize, in addition to publishing the annual New-Generation African Poets chapbook box set.

Congratulations to Ladan and Mahtem!

Find out more HERE

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Otosirieze Nnaemekaram 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 for which he was shortlisted ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017). 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 cities in Nigeria. 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 Pop Culture, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories and is working on a 600-page novel. 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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