Six Kenyan authors will have their works published by a leading US publishing house after they received accolades of as some of the most promising fiction writers under 40.
This gives them the opportunity to connect with other writers, booksellers, readers and literary experts with the vision to shape up literacy, literature, and the publishing.
The six will join 33 other writers, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, at Nigeria for the Port Harcourt Book Fair in October, which honours 39 promising writers in Africa south of the Sahara and its Diaspora.
Stanley Gazemba (pictured), Linda Musita, Clifton Gachagua, Okwiri Oduor, Mehul Gohil and Kioko Ndinda were named winners on Tuesday night in London for defining the continent’s literature.
A three-judge panel picked the winners from 120 writers who made it to the final shortlist from the 200 entries.
Each of their submitted works will be compiled for an anthology, which will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing in New York and released in October. Celebrated author Wole Soyinka will write its introduction, and the whole anthology edited by editor Dame Ellah Allfrey.
When Stanley Gazemba, author of The Stone Hills of Maragoli, submitted his short story, Talking Money, he did not anticipate that he would be among the winners.
“I was not quite sure that I would be among the winners. I am excited of course and as a writer, I feel that my work has been legitimised. It is like my career has been rubber-stamped,” says Gazemba.
Gazemba hopes that being an Africa39 writer will open doors for publishers from other parts of the world to consider publishing his work.
The Africa39 project started late last year when Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina called out writers and publishers to send their works.
“Some countries have a recent vibrant writing culture in African languages. The long-list panel is committed to reserving a minimum of 25 places in the long-list for writers under 40 who have written fiction in any African language,” he wrote in December, last year.
After he received more than 200 entries, Wainaina asked those in the literary world, ranging from publishers, agents and critics for their say on which works to be chosen as among the final 120 to be sent to the competition’s judges.
Writing in The Guardian, a leading UK newspaper, one of the judges Margaret Busby admitted they had a challenge picking the victors.
“We judges were spoiled for choice: the 100 nominees embraced every kind of literary writing, from erotica to romance to science fiction to thrillers. We reduced it by half, then edged happily towards the final list. Except that it is not, by definition, so “final”. We are simply saying: “Here are 39 of the best… “ she wrote.
She further stated that the project was not to concentrate on labels, fashion and preconceived rules about genres and what constitutes African writing.
“Twenty countries are represented by work created in a variety of African and European languages — Kiswahili, Igbo and Lingala as well as English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Understandably, with the continuing debate about the validity of the “African writer” category, there are those who feel uncomfortable about participating in this venture (indeed, some have chosen to opt out),” she wrote.
Other authors in the list include, among other, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria), Richard Ali A Mutu (DRC), Monica Arac de Nyeko (UG), Rotimi Babatunde (Nigeria), Eileen Barbosa (Cape Verde), A Igoni Barrett (Nigeria), Jackee Budesta Batanda (UG), Recaredo Silevo Boturu (Equatorial Guinea), Nana Brew-Hammond (Ghana/US), Shadreck Chikoti (Malawi).-in2eastafrica.net