Nigerian authors Jowhor Ile and Adachioma Ezeano are among the winners of the 2021 O. Henry Prize for their short stories “Fisherman’s Stew,” (published inThe Sewanee Review), and “Becoming the Baby Girl,” (published in McSweeneys Quarterly Concern) respectively.
Annually awarded in honour of American short story writer William Sydney Porter (known by his pen name O. Henry), the 102-year old prize seeks to recognize up to twenty outstanding stories published in US magazines in the year under review. The selected stories are compiled in an anthology by a series editor and published by Anchor Books. In 2021, for the very first time, a guest editor was invited to oversee the compilation. It is none other that Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a previous O. Henry awardee herself.
Both Ile and Ezeano are alumni of Adichie’s writing workshop in different years. Chimamanda once famously referred to the former as “spectacular” as well as publicly heralding his then novel-in-progress. Ezeano was one of five young writers named by Adichie as talents to watch out for.
Ile’s “Fisherman Stew”, shortlisted for the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, centers a widowed woman who baits her deceased husband with his choice cuisine while he was alive, navigating themes of transcendental love, longing and desire. Ile’s short fiction has appeared in The Sewanee Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly and Litro Magazine.
Ezeano’s “Becoming the Baby Girl” is the funny and yet touching story of a young woman’s sense of disorientation with campus life, detailed with moving grace and a light and yet heartfelt touch. Ezeano’s stories have appeared in Brittle Paper, Flashback Fiction, 9jafeminista and elsewhere, earning a Best of the Net nomination among other honors.
Previous awardees of African origin include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinelo Okparanta and Lesley Nneka Arimah.
Congratulations to Jowhor Ile and Adachioma Ezeano!
Go here to see the full winners.