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Yaa Gyasi.

Yaa Gyasi’s hot debut novel, Homegoing, just fell short of bagging its fourth award of 2017, following wins of the National Book Critics Circle Award’s John Leonard Prize, the 2017 PEN Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, and the American Book Awards. It was named runner-up for the 2017 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction, ceding top spot to Patricia Engel’s The Veins of the Ocean. Still, it’s a win.

Awarded in fiction and nonfiction categories, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize honours books that “promote peace, social justice, and global understanding.” The nonfiction winner is David Wood’s What Have We Done, with Ben Rawlence’s City of Thorns as runner-up. The winners will each receive $10,000 while the runners-up will receive $2,500.

Described as “an inspiration” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, with Zadie Smith declaring it “destined to be a classic,” Homegoing was shortlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and secured Gyasi a place on Granta‘s Best of Young American Novelists 2017Homegoing was further named NPR’s Debut Novel of the Year and made it to several major lists: it was a The New York Times 2016 Notable Book, one of Time‘s Top 10 Novels of 2016, one of Oprah’s 10 Favorite Books of 2016, and one of Buzzfeed‘s Best Fiction Books of 2016. Recently, the novel was made mandatory reading for Stanford freshers.

Here is a description of the novel on Amazon.

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Congratulations to Yaa Gyasi! She will be at the awards ceremony, hosted by Gilbert King, in Dayton on 5 November.

See all the winners HERE.

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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 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. 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, You Sing of a Longing, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. 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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