The shortlist for the 2023 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award is out. Organized by Jacana Literary Foundation (JLF), the the prize is worth R35,000 and a publishing contract with South African publisher Jacana Media.

The Jacana Literary Foundation (JLF) is a not-for-profit organisation which seeks to foster excellent writing from South and southern Africa through a number of initiatives. Founded in 2004, the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award – formerly the European Union Literary Award – is open to South African writers submitting a debut unpublished work of fiction in English or translations of other South African languages into English. The word “dinaane” means “telling our stories together” in Setswana.

This year’s judging panel comprised of Rehana Rossouw (head judge), Jennifer Malec, and Robert Muponde. They judged the submissions blind. Out of the 60+ manuscripts submitted, the judges arrived at a shortlist of three.

See the shortlist below:

The Price of Blood in Pretoria by Emerson Vale

Buried in the Chest by Lindani Mbunyuza-Memani

Jacaranda Days by Zoe Ngombane

Emerson Vale is a native South African who grappled with the distinction between art and science, freedom and unfreedom in his youth. Despite understanding these differences, fear led him to take a safe path, becoming a doctor who dabbled in writing. In 2008, Emerson severed ties with medicine to embrace full-time writing.

Lindani Mbunyuza-Memani, an MFA graduate from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, holds a PhD in Mass Communication and Media Arts from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. She earned her MA in Media Studies from Nelson Mandela University in 2011. Beyond writing, she is dedicated to teaching as an English professor.

Zoe Ngombane is an English graduate from the University of Pretoria. She is a teacher by day and a writer by night. Her work has appeared in Brittle Paper, Heyhedone and in the Perdeby.

The winner will be announced in May 2024. The winning writer will receive a prize of R35 000 and a publishing contract with Jacana Media.

Good luck to the shortlisted writers!