Here's the UK-based Chioma Okereke, a writer whose face some are only just beginning to notice, after noticing her book first, of course. Especially now that her debut novel, 'Bitter Leaf' has been shortlisted in the first round of the prize, in the Best First Book category in the Africa Region. I love this photo of her because she evidently takes the concept of natural hair to brave new lengths. And having met her dad, I look at the daughter and I just see the father.
Among those joining Ms Okereke in the First Book category is Caine winner E.C Osondu, whose collection of short stories, 'Voice of America' has been reviewed by several of his peers, including Petina Gappah and Helon Habila.
Habila himself in the running for the Commowealth in the Best Book category for the Africa Region for his third book, 'Oil on Water' - the only Nigerian in this segment. Nigeria has 3 writers in contention this year, the closest competitor to South Africa, which weighs in with 7 shortlisted writers.
While I'm only going to reproduce the lists for Africa, the other Commonwealth regions are also worth a look. How else would one see that the very first winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, Leila Aboulela, is now shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the South Asia and Europe region, flying the flag for the United Kingdom? Meanwhile, Aminatta Forna, who could comfortably have been 'British' now, has been entered and shortlisted in the Africa region for 'The Memory of Love', a contender for Sierra Leone. Good to know that when it comes to national allegiances in the world of literature, everyone discovers where the dice falls, eventually.
Regional winners will be announced next week (March 3) and the overall winners, on May 21.
Shortlists for the Africa Region
Africa Best Book
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)
Men of the South by Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa)
The Unseen Leopard by Bridget Pitt (South Africa)
Oil on Water by Helon Habila (Nigeria)
Blood at Bay by Sue Rabie (South Africa)
Banquet at Brabazan by Patricia Schonstein (South Africa)
Africa Best First Book
Happiness is a Four Letter Word by Cynthia Jele (South Africa)
Bitter Leaf by Chioma Okereke (Nigeria)
The Fossil Artist by Graeme Friedman (South Africa)
Colour Blind by Uzoma Uponi (Nigeria)
Voice of America by E. C. Osondu (Nigeria)
Wall of Days by Alastair Bruce (South Africa)
Image: Publicity Photo