Isele Magazine has announced the winners of its inaugural literary prizes. They are the Nigerian writers Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo for “The Year of the Sun” (fiction), Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike for “there’s more” (poetry), and Nora Nneka for “Sense of Touch” (nonfiction).
The prize, set up in early 2022, spotlights the best piece of writing across genres published in the magazine. The winners will receive a cash award of $200 each.
The three winners were each selected from a shortlist of five by a judging panel consisting of two judges. The organizers took the special initiative to make the winning announcements via short videos posted on Isele Magazine’s YouTube channel. The announcement was made by the Isele editors Tracy Haught, for Fiction, Megan Ross for Poetry, and Adachioma Ezeano for Nonfiction. (Watch here)
Read the judges’ citation and winners’ bio below:
Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her fiction has appeared in Isele Magazine, Ake Review, and Catapult. She currently teaches creative writing as an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa.
“Okonkwo’s exceptional short story explores the difficult conversations we have about how we love, our culture and traditions, and the relationship we have with our history. Her language pulses and her structure is controlled. This is a masterfully crafted story, which immerses you in the setting as she builds this world with mathematical precision, such that a reader, even if they aren’t familiar with the period and the culture, sees themselves in her characters. This story stays with you.”
Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike holds a PhD from the University of Alberta, Canada. An alumnus of the International Writing Program (USA), Umezurike has published his critical writing in Journal of African Cultural Studies, Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, Postcolonial Text, Cultural Studies, and Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry. Umezurike is a co-editor of Wreaths for Wayfarers, an anthology of poems. His books Wish Maker (a children’s novel) and Double Wahala, Double Trouble (a short story collection) are forthcoming from Masobe Books, Nigeria and Griots Lounge Publishing, Canada, respectively, in fall 2021.
“Umezurike’s poem travels around the world, gathering stories about people who search for new beginnings despite the dangers that lurk in the deserts and in the seas, dangers that nip dreams at the bud, but which our seekers must brave for their sanity, for a moment away from the despair they leave behind. Umezurike’s poem is timeless, and we are so lucky he trusted us with his work.”
Dr. Nora Ekeanya is a board-certified adult psychiatrist, storyteller, poet, wife, and mother. Born of Nigerian immigrant parents in Tallahassee, FL, she was raised in the United States and Nigeria, though calling Jacksonville, FL, her hometown. She is a practicing physician in Kansas, where she currently resides, and writes under the alias Nora Nneka.
“Nneka’s deeply moving essay explores the relationship between a daughter and her mother, family trauma, grief, and how these experiences shape a woman’s narrative arc—her relationship with her body, her journey through pregnancy, and the joy that comes with embracing these stories that come together to define who we are and our relationship with our community. Her language is spellbinding.”
The Isele Prizes is sponsored by Bright Light Books and Poetry 4 Change.
Go here to read the winning stories.