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Archive for the ‘Speculative Fiction’ Category

Picture 1Named after Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa honors exceptional literature written by African citizens in the Pan-African diaspora. Awarded by the Lumina Foundation in Nigeria, the Wole Soyinka Award is given out every two years — and the most recent winner, Zahrah the Windseeker, is a YA novel of speculative fiction set in West Africa by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, an American writer originally from Nigeria.

An interesting thing about this award is the parameters of who it honors. It is a new award only begun three years ago in 2006, but in the planning stages before the award was announced, there was debate whether the award should be given only to African residents – or those in the Pan-African diaspora who have African citizenship. Eventually it was settled that it should be open to all those citizens in Africa and throughout the diaspora to better represent a range of African viewpoints and talents worldwide. This is an interesting precedent to consider when defining ‘international’ literature. Though a title like Zahrah the Windseeker, or the previous award winner (and also YA title) Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta, were originally published in the United States, the ‘audience’ that they speak to is much broader then simply a North American one.

In researching this topic I have come across a variety of opinions of what ‘international’ should mean: strictly those titles published abroad; titles published abroad + those written domestically by an ex-pat writer about their home country; or the broadest spectrum including all these titles + titles written by Canadian or American authors about a different country. Though I think it is important to try and capture as much literature from this first category as much as possible (especially as this type of international book tends to be in the smallest numbers on our shelves), seeing the scope of Wole Soyinka Award has made me reconsider the parameters of what ‘international’ is. Because in spite of being published domestically, these novels are not just written for a domestic audience – they are also written for an African one.

Wole Soyinka Award winners and shortlist:

Zahrah PBeevrythigngood


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