Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chinelo Okparanta and three other Nigerians Lead 2013 Caine Prize Shortlist

Chinelo Okparanta, the author of the highly rated Happiness Like Water and three other Nigerian writers have made four of the five writers shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African fiction.

Chinelo's entry "America" from Granta, Issue 118 (London, 2012) is highly favoured to win the coveted Caine Prize.

The other Nigerians on the shortlist are Elnathan John for "Bayan Layi" from Per Contra, Issue 25 (USA, 2012), Tope Folarin for "Miracle" from Transition, Issue 109 (Bloomington, 2012) and Abubakar Adam Ibrahim for "The Whispering Trees" from "The Whispering Trees", published by Parrésia Publishers (Lagos, 2012).

The fifth writer is Pede Hollist from Sierra Leone for "Foreign Aid" from Journal of Progressive Human Services, Vol. 23.3 (Philadelphia, 2012).

The Chair of judges, art historian and broadcaster, Gus Casely-Hayford said:

“The shortlist was selected from 96 entries from 16 African countries. They are all outstanding African stories that were drawn from an extraordinary body of high quality

Gus described the shortlist saying, “The five contrasting titles interrogate aspects of things that we might feel we know of Africa – violence, religion, corruption, family, community – but these are subjects that are deconstructed and beautifully
remade. These are challenging, arresting, provocative stories of a continent and its
descendants captured at a time of burgeoning change.”

Alongside Gus on the panel of judges this year are award-winning Nigerian-born artist, Sokari Douglas Camp; author, columnist and Lord Northcliffe Emeritus Professor at UCL, John Sutherland; Assistant Professor at Georgetown University, Nathan Hensley and the winner of the Caine Prize in its inaugural year, Leila Aboulela.

Once again, the winner of the £10,000 Caine Prize will be given the opportunity of taking up a month’s residence at Georgetown University, as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. The award will cover all travel and living expenses. The winner will also be invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September 2013. Last year the Caine Prize was won by Nigerian
writer Rotimi Babatunde. He has subsequently co- authored a play "Feast" for the Young Vic and the Royal Court Theatres in London.

The winner of the £10,000 prize is to be announced at a celebratory dinner at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on Monday the 8th of July.

The first Nigerian to win the Caine Prize is the popular multiple awards winning novelist Helon Habila in 2001. Previous shortlisted Nigerian writers include the famous Nigerian authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in 2002; Chika Unigwe in 2004, was also shortlisted in 2006 for the Dutch equivalent of the Orange Prize for her novel translated into Dutch, "de fenicks". She won the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition for her story "Borrowed Smile", a Commonwealth Short Story Award for "Weathered Smiles" and a Flemish literary prize for "De Smaak van Sneeuw". Her second novel, On Black Sisters’ Street, first published in Dutch, was published in Chika’s own English version by Jonathan Cape in 2009 and Random House in 2011 won the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature endowed by the Nigeria LNG Limited.. Her new novel is Night Dancer published in June 2012 by Jonathan Cape; Ike Okonta in 2005; Sefi Atta in 2006, is famous for her Everything Good Will Come and Swallow and the short story collection News From Home. Winner of the PEN International 2004/5 David T.K. Wong Prize, she also won the first Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2006 for Everything Good Will Come, and the final NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa in 2009 for Lawless and other stories, now published as "News From Home". Her publishers include Interlink Books in the USA, AAA Press in Nigeria and Jacana Media in South Africa; Uwem Akpan in 2007 and his book Say You're One of Them (Oprah's Book Club) published by Little Brown won the Best First Book award in the Africa region of the Commonwealth Literature Prize and was critically acclaimed by Oprah Winfrey on Oprah’s Book Club in 2009 prompting it to reach the top of the New York Times bestseller list; Ada Udechukwu in 2007 and Uzor Maxim Uzoatu in 2008.

The previous winners include the following.
Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She received her BS from Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University and her MFA from Iowa Writers' Workshop. She teaches at the University of Iowa.


 Her novel "Happiness Like Water" made the exclusive list of Best Books Of 2013?: Our Picks For The Year's Biggest Reads by the highly esteemed Huffington Post.
See the report on and also the latest New Voice in a series on GRANTA.
Read her interview on

"Chinelo Okparanta’s debut collection is astonishing. Her narrators render their stories with such strength and intimacy, such lucidity and composure, that in each and every case the truths of their lives detonate deep inside the reader’s heart, with the power and force of revelation."

 —Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers.

 "Okparanta's prose is tender, beautiful and evocative. These powerful stories of contemporary Nigeria are told with compassion and a certain sense of humour. What a remarkable new talent."

—Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street, winner of the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature sponsored by the Nigeria LNG Limited.

"Intricate, graceful prose propels Okparanta’s profoundly moving and illuminating book. I devoured these stories and immediately wanted more. This is an arrival."

 —NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names.

"A haunting and startlingly original collection of short stories about the lives of Nigerians both at home and in America. Okparanta’s characters are forced to make difficult, often impossible choices—a university student decides to go to work as an escort to pay for her mother’s medical bills, a high school teacher is asked to come home to care for her dying, abusive father—and yet they manage to prevail through quiet and sometimes surprising acts of defiance. Okparanta’s prose is elegant and precise, fueled by a strong undercurrent of rage that surfaces at unexpected moments. Happiness, Like Water is a deeply affecting literary debut, the work of a sure and gifted new writer."
—Julie Otsuka, author of The Buddha in the Attic

 "Without bluster, Chinelo Okparanta writes stories that are brave and devastating."

 —Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.


See more by Nigerian Writers  and click on any of the book covers to order for the bestselling Nigerian novels and short stories collections.



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