That time of year again- The winner of the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing 2022 will be announced on Monday 18th July! Its the (unacceptably hot) day before and I’m having the pleasure of reading through these intriguing shortlisted stories. Left it late! I’ve read two of the stories before, very good to dip into them again. If you haven’t read the shortlisted stories yet, catch up! You can read them here
What is the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing?
Even if you think you don’t know much about it, you may recognize some names of talented past winners: Leila Abouela, Namwali Serpell, Lesley Nneka Arimah and NoViolet Bulawayo to name but a few
The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. The prize was launched in 2000 to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally. The focus on the short story reflects the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition
2021’s winner was Meron Hadero’s The Street Sweep– Definitely a favorite of mine from those shortlisted. Also, If you want to read some reviews of 2020’s brilliant entries, have a peek at my thoughts on them here and here. Winner was Irenosen Okojie’s surreal Grace Jones from the Nudibranch collection. I excitedly bought Jowhor Ile’s And After Many Days- true to form, haven’t read it yet!
This year is exciting! Very proud to see Sarah Ozo-Irabor (of BooksAndRyhmes) as the new director of The AKO Caine Prize 2022. Beautiful seeing her passion for highlighting African Lit, I’d always recommend her podcast if you want to learn more about books by African writers to love.
A shout out for the wonderful IRL (!! we outside) events I sadly missed this year! Interviews featuring the shortlisted writers, the brilliant Ayobami Adebayo (Stay With Me!), Candid Book Club (more faves!), Writers Of Colour and Naana Orleans-Armissah. Award Ceremony to take place on Monday 18th July at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
LET’S GET INTO IT!
Interestingly, there are two entries from the same anthology- Accra Noir- a book I read and loved last year. Also means there are two Ghanaian short listers but I don’t want to be biased so in no particular order, here’s my rundown!
There seems to be a theme of intersecting the macabre with family and love
but each story stakes a unique claim
I love that Giorgis wrapped up two generations of women so adeptly. Beginning with Tigist’s story meant the reader could take Meskerem’s path almost as a legacy. Handle with care. I also love the affection and care between Almaz and her niece Meskerem – it’s such a powerful thing to name someone. There’s a contrast in how the women of Meskerem’s family relate compared to the obligation felt between the Girma men. It lends itself to questions of masculinity and the weight of expectations. In just a few pages, we can see both a shift in women’s outlook on love and a loss of deference to “higher classes”. The Girmas’ domineering force in her mother’s life vs the background character played by “John” in Meskerem’s. The boldness with which Meskerem dares to take action. Again here we are faced with questioning who a mother is and the many forms it can take .
Why should it win?: A convincing multi generational narrative in 18 pages; Changing attitudes toward class and masculinity
This post is getting long! Click here for part 2 – mini reviews of the other four stories