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Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s first novel, Dust, published in 2014 by Kwani? in Kenya and by Penguin Random House worldwide, focused on a troubled family. A man, Odidi Oganga, is killed on the streets of Nairobi; his sister, Ajany, returns from Brazil, and with their father bring his body home, bent on investigating his life and death: from this is unleashed hard-hitting events—a tangle of violence, power, deceit, survival, unrequited love, and sacrifice, shifting back and forth from the Mau-Mau movement in the 1950s to Kenya’s 1960s post-independence hopes and horrors.

Greeted with fanfare upon publication, Owuor’s microcosmic portrayal of Kenya and her dense, lyrical prose have earned hot acclaim—from references to William Boyd, Graham Greene, and Joseph Conrad’s ranges, to comparison to Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s novels. The book was shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize and the Financial Times/Oppenheimer Fund for Emerging Voices, and received Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature, all in 2015. Dust has often been called the Great Kenyan Novel; most notably, Binyavanga Wainaina, writing in The Observer, called it “the most important novel to come out of Africa since Half of a Yellow Sun.”

One of Africa’s finest prose stylists, Yvonne Owuor made her name in 2003 when she won the Caine Prize for “Weight of Whispers,” a short story that is among the five, six finest to have won the prize. In the years since, she has been named Kenya’s Woman of the Year in the Arts in 2004, received an Iowa Writers’ Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation residency, been a TEDx Nairobi speaker, and her short story, “The Knife Grinder’s Tale,” was made into a short film of the same title. With her powerful words and elegant personal style, Owuor has accumulated a cult fan base—you need only see how she was inundated by young writers after a session at the 2017 Ake Festival. The question, since Dust, has been: What will she do next?

Now her second novel has been announced.

Titled The Dragonfly Sea, the 512-page work is forthcoming on 12 March, 2019. Here is a description of the book by its publishers Penguin Random House:

From the award-winning author of Dust comes a vibrant, stunning coming-of-age novel about a young woman struggling to find her place in a vast world–a poignant exploration of fate, mortality, love, and loss.

On the island of Pate, off the coast of Kenya, lives solitary, stubborn Ayaana and her mother, Munira. When a sailor named Muhidin, also an outsider, enters their lives, Ayaana finds something she has never had before: a father. But as Ayaana grows into adulthood, forces of nature and history begin to reshape her life and the island itself–from a taciturn visitor with a murky past to a sanctuary-seeking religious extremist, from dragonflies to a tsunami, from black-clad kidnappers to cultural emissaries from China. Ayaana ends up embarking on a dramatic ship’s journey to the Far East, where she will discover friends and enemies; be seduced by the charming but unreliable scion of a powerful Turkish business family; reclaim her devotion to the sea; and come to find her own tenuous place amid a landscape of beauty and violence and surprising joy. Told with a glorious lyricism and an unerring sense of compassion, The Dragonfly Sea is a transcendent story of adventure, fraught choices, and of the inexorable need for shelter in a dangerous world.

Now we know that it is a coming-of-age story; that it is about the sea and sailors and a sea journey; that it is about nature; that it is set partly in China; and—it warrants mention—that the prose is glorious.

Congratulations to Yvonne Owuor.

Pre-order The Dragonsea Fly HERE.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, literary journalist, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Transition, and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award 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. 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 and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies. 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, the boy just Googles Rihanna. Find him at otosirieze.com.

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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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