The Egyptian writer Noor Naga won the 2022 Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize for her debut novel If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English.
Naga was named winner at The Center for Fiction Annual Awards Benefit on December 6, 2022 at Cipriani 25 Broadway in New York City. She received a cash prize of $15,000.
The judging panel, which included the Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma, selected If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English from a finalist of five books by debut authors: Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades, The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan, NSFW by Isabel Kaplan, Little Rabbit by Alyssa Songsiridej, Big Girl by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, and The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara. The earlier announced longlist of 24 books included the Nigerian author Eloghosa Osunde for her novel Vagabonds!.
According to the award citation:
If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English takes place in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, when an Egyptian-American daughter of immigrants, nostalgic for the country she’s never lived in, falls in love with a man she meets in Cairo. He was a photographer of the revolution, but is now addicted to cocaine and living in a shack. When their relationship takes a violent turn, the fallout exposes the gaps in American identity politics and reexamines the faces of empire.
Also honored at the event was the Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka with the Lifetime of Excellence in Fiction Award. To mark the occasion, Soyinka appeared in conversation with The Center for Fiction’s Board Chair Erroll McDonald.
Congratulations to Noor Naga!