Three Nigerian writers make Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist

Three Nigerian authors, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Akwaeke Emezi and Diana Evans have been longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, one the most respected, most celebrated and most successful literary awards in the world.

The annual award celebrates the very best full length fiction written by women throughout the world.

 

Diana Evans

Diana is an award-winning Nigerian-British novelist, journalist and critic. Daughter of a Nigerian mother and an English father, Diana was nominated for her book, ‘Ordinary People’.

She was born (in 1971) and grew up in Neasden, north-west London, with her parents and five sisters, one of whom was her twin. She also spent part of her childhood in Lagos.

Resident in London, Ms Evans has written three full-length novels. Her first novel, 26a, published in 2005, won the Orange Award for New Writers, the Betty Trask Award, and the deciBel Writer of the Year award.

She completed a Media Studies degree at the University of Sussex. While in Brighton, she was a dancer in the African dance troupe, Mashango. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

At the age of 25, according to Wikipedia, Diana became a journalist and contributed human-interest features and art criticism to different magazines, journals and newspapers in the UK; published interviews to celebrities; worked as an editor for Pride Magazine and the literary journal, Calabash.

Her first novel, 26a, was published in 2005 to wide critical acclaim and has since been translated into 12 languages.

It was shortlisted in the first novel category for both the Whitbread Book Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was the inaugural winner of the Orange Award for New Writers. purported

Literary critic Maya Jaggi said in The Guardian of 26a: “The writing is both mature and freshly perceptive, creating not only a warmly funny novel of a Neasden childhood … but a haunting account of the loss of innocence and mental disintegration.”

Carol Birch, writing in The Independent, said of 26a: “Evans writes with tremendous verve and dash. Her ear for dialogue is superb, and she has wit and sharp perception.”

Evans’ second novel, The Wonder (2009), explores the world of dancing. Maggie Gee, writing in The Independent, called it “a serious work of art, with sentences like ribbons of silk winding around a skeleton of haunting imagery.. . . The Wonder′s most central achievement is to explore what art means in human life. This second novel, both powerful and delicate, lacking in linear plot but rich in the poetry of human observation, proves that Evans has what she calls ‘the watch-me, the grace note’ that marks a true artist.”

Her third novel, Ordinary People (2018), is a portrait of family life for two black couples in their 30s in South London in a year bookended by the election of Barack Obama and the death of Michael Jackson.

Apart from writing fiction, Evans reviews books for the national press, and teaches courses and workshops on journalism and creative writing at venues that have included the Arvon Foundation and Royal Holloway College. She is a patron of the SI Leeds Literary Prize for unpublished fiction by Black and Asian women in the UK. She is also a 2014–16 Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the London College of Fashion and a 2016–17 Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Kent.

 

Akwaeke Emezi

Born in 1987 in Umuahia, Akwaeke is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist. She was nominated for her debut book, Freshwater, which was a New York Times Notable Book.

She won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa, and was a 2018 National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35’ honoree.

Freshwater tells the story of a protagonist named Ada who has been occupied by multiple ogbanje spirits, as a way of exploring the spirit/body binary.

The New Yorker called it “A Startling Début Novel,” the Guardian called it “a remarkable debut,” and the Los Angeles Times called it “dazzling.”.

Freshwater was long-listed for numerous significant awards and was selected as a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist, put on the long list for the The Women’s Prize for Fiction, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and is a finalist for the Center for Fiction›s First Novel Prize, Carnegie Medal of Excellence and The Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize.

The book was also named a Best Book of the Year by the New Yorker.

 

Oyinkan Braithwaite

A graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University, Oyinkan was in 2014 shortlisted in the top 10 spoken word artist in the ‘Eko Poetry Slam’, and in 2016, she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. She has had short stories published in anthologies and has also self-published work.

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