And the 2017 Caine Prize winner is…

YES, it’s that time of year again! In less than two weeks, the 2017 Caine Prize winner will be announced!

For those who are not familiar, the Caine Prize for African Writing, which was first awarded in year 2000 is an award “open to writers from anywhere in Africa for work published in English. Its focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition” (source).

Some notable winners of the Caine Prize include (click on links to my reviews):

  • Leila Aboulela, from Sudan (2000) – author of novels Minaret, The Translator, Lyrics Alley among other works. 
  • Binyavanga Wainaina, from Kenya (2002) – founding editor of Kwani?, author of memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place and the essay How To Write About Africa found in various literary magazines.
  • Yvonne A. Owuor, from Kenya (2003) – author of the novel, Dust.
  • E.C Osondu, from Nigeria (2009) – author of the novel This House is not For Sale and collection Voice of America: stories.
  • NoViolet Bulawayo, from Zimbabwe (2011) – author of the novel, We Need New Names

Previously shortlisted writers include: Mia Couto from Mozambique (2001), Chimamanda Adichie from Nigeria (2002), Laila Lalami from Morocco (2006), Chinelo Okparanta from Nigeria (2013), Pede Hollist from Sierra Leone (2013), Tendai Huchu from Zimbabwe (2014), Elnathan John from Nigeria (2013 & 2015), among others!

The Caine Prize and the shortlisted stories play huge roles in the authors I read from Africa. Many Caine Prize winners and shortlisted writers have found great success and I’ve reviewed a good number of these writers’ works here on African Book Addict!


This year, the Caine Prize shortlist comprises of five talented writers with unique short stories (left to right):(Image via caineprize.com)

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) – Read her short story: Who Will Greet You At Home

Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) – Read her short story: Bush Baby

Bushra al-Fadil (Sudan) – Read his short story: The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away 

Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) – Read his short story: God’s Children Are Little Broken Things

Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (South Africa) – Read her short story: The Virus


The Caine Prize shortlist wouldn’t be a shortlist if a previous shortlistee isn’t back on the list, right? I’m no longer shocked or disappointed when I see previous shortlistees and winners back on the shortlist – the Caine Prize is good for that.

I was happy to see Bushra al-Fadil, a writer of Sudanese heritage on the list! I think the last time a Sudanese writer was on the Caine Prize shortlist was back in year 2000, when Leila Aboulela won the first Caine Prize. But I wasn’t able to finish al-Fadil’s short story- The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t get it. The Virus by Makhene is 26 pages and I haven’t found the time to enjoy it yet. Maybe I’ll listen to the podcast/ audio of the story if I have 1 hour 11 minutes to spare. I found Lesley Nneka Arimah’s story – Who Will Greet You At Home, softly magical. I recently purchased her short story collection – What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky (which was the title of her last year’s shortlisted story) at it’s full price, so I hope it’s worth it. Hmm, I wonder if Arimah will compete to win next year’s prize as well, even with all the positive buzz around her new book.

Chikodili Emelumadu’s story – Bush Baby, is one hell of a rollercoaster! I was initially hesitant to read the story, as it’s a long read of 17 pages. But once I started reading, I just had to stay on the intense ride and endure every bit of it. I love Emelumadu’s succinct writing style. She manages to accurately capture the tiniest nuances which I found impressive. Bush Baby is a haunting story that follows adult siblings Ihuoma and Okwuchukwu (or Okwy) as they battle being tortured by an evil spirit that is out for Okwy. Ihuoma is back home in Nigeria from studying/living abroad and Okwy has resorted to satisfying the desires of his flesh – drugs, gambling, prostitutes and juju. YES- juju! Without giving too much away, just beware – there is black magic/ juju/ voodoo/ magical realism (however you choose to call ‘evil spirits’) in this story. Emelumadu’s palpable descriptions had be cringing and feeling deep sorrow for Okwy and his demise. I discovered Emelumadu’s blog, Igbophilia late last year and find her commentary/stories hilarious and very entertaining. I’m proud of her for making it on this year’s Caine Prize shortlist.

Arinze Ifeakandu’s story – God’s Children Are Little Broken Things MUST win the 2017 Caine Prize. Arinze is one heck of a writer! God’s Children Are Little Broken Things follows 2 university students, Lotanna and Kamsi. They are both young men and they become lovers. However, their relationship is very complicated. Lotanna is a soccer player and lover boy who is dating Rachael but he’s attracted to Kamsi – a piano player who’s small in stature. I don’t want to give too much away but I urge everyone to read the story – it’s the perfect short story for this month, which is considered LGBTQ Pride Month in the US. The story is deeply compelling and layered with many themes, such as – love, homosexuality, domestic violence, family, grief, illness, masculinity etc.

Reading God’s Children Are Little Broken Things got slightly confusing as it’s a second-person narrative, but I believe Arinze writing in this point of view made the story very personal and hence, powerful. I’m curious to know more about Arinze Ifeakandu and what compelled him to write this important story. I’d love to know how other readers feel about this story and the types of arguments/ conversations it will open up, especially among Africans who believe sexual fluidity and homosexuality are abominations. Arinze Ifeakandu must win this year’s Caine Prize and expand this riveting short story into a book! *fingers crossed.*

Which story is your favorite? Who do you think will win the Caine Prize this year?

The winner will be announced in London at Senate House Library in partnership with SOAS, on the 3rd of July. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!

You can also check out past commentary on the Caine Prize below:

2014 | 2015  | 2016

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Fairytales For Lost Children by Diriye Osman

Diriye OsmanDate Read: January 7th 2016

Published: September 2013

Publisher: Team Angelica Press

Pages: 156

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

Fairytales For Lost Children is narrated by people constantly on the verge of self-revelation. These characters – young, gay and lesbian Somalis – must navigate the complexities of family, identity and the immigrant experience as they tumble towards freedom. Using a unique idiom rooted in hip-hop, graphic illustrations, Arabic calligraphy and folklore studded with Kiswahili and Somali slang, these stories mark the arrival of a singular new voice in contemporary fiction.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

*sigh*

Is it too early to already know my favorite book of the year? Fairytales For Lost Children just might be the best book I’ve read this year. I read two stories a day from this collection, to adequately absorb everything in little bits. I even smoothed the velvet-textured book cover against my cheeks after reading some of the stories (no, I’m not a weirdo… maybe a little haha). And when I was done reading Fairytales For Lost Children, I wanted more. I need Diriye Osman to write a full novel soon!

This collection of short stories is raw, erotic, sassy, vivid, devastating and most importantly, liberating. These stories are set in modern day Somalia, Kenya and London. The characters of these stories just want to be loved for who they are. They desire to live their lives free from hate, criticism, and scrutiny, while trying to understand the intersectionalities of their own identities.

There are eleven stories in this collection and I loved how Diriye Osman precedes each story with his beautiful artwork, which visually summarizes each tale. Osman also incorporates lots of Neo-Soul (my ultimate favorite music genre) and old school Hip-Hop music into the stories. He refers to Meshell Ndegeocello’s 2002 soul album, Comfort Woman in about three of the stories, so I just had to purchase that album after I read this collection! Osman also blends languages like Somali, Arabic and Swahili into these stories, which make them feel authentic. I deeply enjoyed each and every one of the stories (which is rare for a short stories collection – there are always one or two stories I don’t care for) but my faves were:

Shoga‘ – This tale was pretty explicit but entertaining and heartbreaking at the same time. A displaced seventeen year old Somali boy lives with his grandmother, Ayeeyo, in Kenya. He falls in love with Boniface – the domestic help who is a refugee from Burundi. After enjoying many nights of listening to Bob Marley, smoking marijuana and sleeping with Boniface in his quarters, this seventeen year old later has to deal with the consequences of his pleasures by facing his grandmother – before her time is up.

Earthling‘ – This is a story that follows Somali-Brit – Zeytun, who suffers from psychosis and deeply desires love from her family – more so, from her sister. Her only family and support system is her girlfriend, Mari, who admirably stands by Zeytun and aids in her mental and emotional healing. The love exhibited between this lesbian couple was eye-opening and comforting to me.

Your Silence Will Not Protect You‘ – This story is preceded by Diriye Osman’s artwork that actually looks like a portrait of himself (he’s the man on the book cover by the way!), so I’m assuming this tale is loosely based on his personal story. Osman boldly narrates the series of events that lead to him coming out to his family, and how he boldly deals with the pain of rejection.

The Other (Wo)man‘ – I’ve never read a story like this before. Yassin is a young, twenty-two year old Somali man living in London, pursuing his art degree and is ready to start dating. He meets a middle-aged, British-Jamaican man who works as an army pilot on a dating website (Gaydar) and they go on a couple of dates. But one night, Yassin realizes that the British-Jamaican man’s fetishes not only offend him, but actually push him to maybe trying something he never thought he’d consider. This coming-of-age tale had me sooo worried. But I loved observing Yassin as he strived to understand his ever evolving identities.

My favorite quote from ‘The Other (Wo)man‘ as Yassin takes a walk towards Peckham Rye:

He felt his sense of Somaliness slipping away from him and he was afraid of letting it go, afraid of the moral, psychological and social anarchy its loss threatened to create within him. But at the same time, what was he really hanging onto? A sense of social allegiance? But wouldn’t he be automatically excluded from his community because of his sexual orientation wherever his own allegiance lay? He didn’t belong to just one society: he was gay, Somali, Muslim, and yet all these cultural positions left him excluded… He was Somali first, Muslim second, gay third. But perhaps that hierarchy was only a matter of timing: born Somali, raised Muslim, discovered gay. And now he was venturing out into the world without a sense of his place within it and this frightened him. Yet he realized that he couldn’t mourn what was lost but instead had to consider what was to be gained. He knew he would never belong but did he really want to? (pg. 137)

This collection of short stories is probably the best LGBTQ-themed African fiction out there. I totally understand why Diriye Osman won The Polari First Book Prize back in 2014. Osman’s writing style is bold and fearless and I believe this collection is a priceless gem among the myriad of African fiction novels around. Please read this if you get the chance! And try not to judge the characters in the stories; just immerse yourself in the different happenings of the tales and learn from them. These stories speak volumes on being true to yourself, following your heart and the universal human need to love one another, regardless of sexual orientation, race, occupation, religion. Fairytales For Lost Children must have been liberating to write and I truly admire Diriye Osman as a storyteller and visual artist. Readers around the world will find solace in this work of art – I definitely did! I look forward to reading more of Osman’s work in the future. I’m sure whatever he writes next would be as fierce as this collection.

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

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  • Also!! Read Diriye Osman’s essay published in The Huffington Post (2014): To Be Young, Gay and African
  • I really enjoyed this conversation between Diriye Osman and Another Africa, where they discuss Osman’s background, musical influences and his creative process, difficulties he faced in writing this collection, future projects and so much more!

Other Somali writers I plan on reading in the future (click on their names to check out their Goodreads profiles and their collection of work): Nuruddin FarahAyaan Hirsi Ali, Warsan Shire (Somali-British), Ladan Osman (Somali-American), Nadifa Mohamed (Somali-British).

Purchase Fairytales For Lost Children on Amazon