LESLEY NNEKA ARIMAH
For New Pittsburgh Courier
(TriceEdneyWire.com/GIN)—Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah has won the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “Skinned” that looks deeply at the disparity in the treatment of married and unmarried women.
Her short story “topples social hierarchies, challenges traditions and envisions new possibilities for women of the world,” said Kenyan author Peter Kimani, who also chaired the judging panel.
The judges called it a “unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion.”
Nneka Arimah’s Skinned’, selected from a short list of 5, envisions a society in which young girls are ceremonially ‘uncovered’ and must marry in order to regain the right to be clothed. It tells the story of Ejem, a young woman uncovered at the age of 15 yet ‘unclaimed’ in adulthood, and her attempts to negotiate a rigidly stratified society following the breakdown of a protective friendship with the married Chidinma.
With a wit, prescience, and a wicked imagination, ‘Skinned’ is a bold and unsettling tale of bodily autonomy and womanhood, and the fault lines along which solidarities are formed and broken.
Announcing the award, Peter Kimani said the work is a unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals… Using a sprightly diction, she invents a dystopian universe inhabited by unforgettable characters where friendship is tested, innocence is lost, and readers gain a new understanding of life. Women’s stories figured prominently in this year’s Caine Prize short list. Authors included Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) for ‘The Wall’; Cherrie Kandie (Kenya) for ‘Sew My Mouth’ published in ID Identity: New Short Fiction From Africa. Cherrie Kandie is a Kenyan writer and a senior at college in the United States of America;Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti (Cameroon) for ‘It Takes A Village Some Say’, published in The Baffler. Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti is a Cameroonian-American writer and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her forthcoming short story collection, Like Walking on Cowry Shells, focuses on the lives of hyphenated-Americans who share her multi-cultural heritage in the United States and Africa.
Lastly, Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor (Nigeria) for ‘All Our Lives’ published in ID Identity: New Short Fiction From Africa. A 2018 Rhodes Scholar finalist and a 2018 Kathy Fish Fellow, he won the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize for Short Fiction. is at work on a novel and a short story collection.
Works of all short listed writers and the prize winner can be heard online at http://caineprize.com/the-shortlist-2019
The Caine Prize winner receives a $12,500 prize.
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