The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and short story writer Pemi Aguda are among winners of the 2022 O. Henry Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary honors for a single short story published in an American journal/outlet.
Adichie, a previous two-time winner, is awarded for her short story “Zikora”, published by Amazon Original Stories. (Read an excerpt here.) The story is an intimate look at motherhood and child care through the eyes of a Nigerian woman in America dealing with estrangement from the father of her unborn child while grappling with her mother’s idea of ‘help’. Just last year, Adichie was invited as the first-ever guest editor for the prize anthology in which she selected, among others, the stories by the Nigerian writers and former students Adachioma Ezeano and Johwor Ile.
Aguda, also a former student of Adichie’s, is awarded for her short story “Breastmilk” published in One Story. “Breastmilk” is a warm and wise interrogation of womanhood, feminism and betrayal from the perspective of a young mother who finds herself unable to provide breastmilk for her newborn after learning of her husband’s extra-marital affair.
The O. Henry Prize, named after American short story writer William Sydney Porter (known by his pen name O. Henry), annually recognizes the best short stories published in a US magazine. In its early years, it was open only to American writers. Subsequent decades saw slow but steady amendments to the rule, until 2003 when eligibility was expanded to include writing from authors of any nationality providing the story was published in a North American magazine. That same year, the Nigerian writer Adichie received her first award for “The American Embassy.”
The 2022 series is guest-edited by the Booker-nominated author Valeria Luiselli. The list is notable for the dominance of stories translated into English from another language. The collected stories will be published in the annual anthology The Best Short Stories 2022: The O. Henry Prize Winners.
See additional winners here.
Congratulations to Chimamanda Adichie and Pemi Aguda.