Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo and Nigerian author Chinelo Okparanta are on the longlist for the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize.
The $35,000 prize is one of the largest prizes in the United States and is open to novels and short story collections from writers of any nationality, writing on topics of violence, inequality, gender, the environment, immigration, religion, race, or other social issues.
It’s equally exciting to note the consistent appearance of Africans on the prize’s listing over the last few years. Just last year alone, four writers on the longlist were African.
Interestingly, the two Africans on the longlist this year are listed for their second novels. Bulawayo’s Glory, the much-awaited follow-up to her award-winning critically acclaimed debut We Need New Names, is a satirical take on the downfall of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe as seen through the eyes of animal characters, in what is regarded as a Zimbabwean spin on George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The novel has been met with similar acclaim since its publication, including making Bulawayo the first Black woman and second African since Chigozie Obioma and one of the very rare writers in the world to be consecutively shortlisted for the Booker Prize for their debut and follow-up novels.
Okparanta’s Harry Sylvester Bird, an affecting, philosophical follow-up to the much-praised Under the Udala Trees, explores a young white man’s education and miseducation in contemporary America as he navigates personal desire and racial privilege. The novel appeared on many anticipated lists, and has continued to draw praise since its publication.
The 2022 judging panel, which include Rumaan Alam, Chris Bryan, Omar El Akkad, Teresa Goddu, Dawnie Walton, will decide on a shortlist in the coming months, with a winner announced shortly afterwards.
Congratulations and fingers crossed for Bulawayo and Okparanta!