Home 5 News 5 Irenosen Okojie’s ‘Grace Jones’ story wins Caine Prize

Irenosen Okojie’s ‘Grace Jones’ story wins Caine Prize

by | Jul 29, 2020 | News

Nigerian-British author Irenosen Okojie’s story about an impersonator of the singer Grace Jones has won the £10,000 AKO Caine Prize for African writing.  Her winning story, simply called ‘Grace Jones’, is from her 2019 collection Nudibranch, published by Dialogue, part of the Hachette group.

The story is described as a “heart-wrenching account of loss, fractured identity and bereavement”.  It tells the story of Sidra, a woman whose life is consumed with guilt.  When she is 13 she loses her entire family in a fire and years later finds herself working as an impersonator of the famous Jamaican singer, model and actress Grace Jones.

The chair of the judging panel, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, director of London’s Africa Centre, said: ““This year’s winner of the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is a radical story that plays with logic, time and place; it defies convention, as it unfolds a narrative that is multi-layered and multi-dimensional. It is risky, dazzling, imaginative and bold; it is intense and full of stunning prose; it’s also a story that reflects African consciousness in the way it so seamlessly shifts dimensions, and it’s a story that demonstrates extraordinary imagination. Most of all, it is world-class fiction from an African writer.”

He also said: “In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has prompted deeply powerful questions about race, justice and equality in the world today, this story offers a salient exploration of what it can mean to embody and perform Blackness in the world. This is a story of tremendously delicate power and beauty, and one in which we recognise the tradition of African storytelling and imagination at its finest.”

Okojie says she has always wanted to write about Grace Jones.  “I went to see her in concert years ago and that was a really mind-blowing experience…. The idea of writing a story about a Grace Jones impersonator just really struck me because it did that thing of wanting to write about somebody who has a really traumatic past. You know, the way they process and have dealt with that trauma manifests in lots of interesting ways. And one of the ways is kind of having another persona to hide behind. I thought it could work on multiple levels. It made sense that the idea came to me. It made sense that Grace was the person that I wanted [the character in the story] to imitate as an artist because obviously, I’ve had that love for her. So, it felt like there was a real synchronicity about getting the idea.”

On receiving the award she tweeted: “Beyond delighted and overwhelmed that my story Grace Jones has won the 2020 Caine Prize.  Mind-blowing.  Massive thanks to the judges and the prize for this honour.  Big love to Elise Dillsworth [her agent] and @SharLovegrove [Sharmaine Lovegrove, her publisher at Dialogue].”

Okojie’s debut novel Butterfly Fish (Jacaranda) won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular (Jacaranda) was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize and the Saboteur Awards, and nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award.

Born in Nigeria Okojie moved to England aged eight where she attended boarding school.  She studied Communications and Visual Culture at London Metropolitan University and has worked as a freelance writer and as a freelance Arts Project Manager and Coordinator.  She was the National Development Coordinator at Apples & Snakes, England’s leading performance poetry organisation and as a Publicity Officer for The Caine Prize For Fiction tour.

 

 

Recent News

13Jun
Korea’s “K-Book” Exhibit at Paris Olympics

Korea’s “K-Book” Exhibit at Paris Olympics

Starting June 2024 and running until October, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, alongside the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea (KPIPA), is hosting a series of events in France focused on the Korean publishing market. These events include book talks, exhibitions, lectures, and a culture fair.   From June to August, an exhibition […]

13Jun
Beijing Book Fair Expands Reach with 15 New Debuting Countries

Beijing Book Fair Expands Reach with 15 New Debuting Countries

The 2024 Beijing International Book Fair is set to open on June 19 and will run until June 24. This year, 15 new countries and regions will be making their debut at the fair, including Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Nigeria, Norway, Slovakia, and Qatar.   Organizers expect around 1,600 exhibitors, with 1,050 of them coming […]

13Jun
HarperCollins Expands with Nonfiction Imprint Harper Influence

HarperCollins Expands with Nonfiction Imprint Harper Influence

HarperCollins is launching another new imprint, Harper Influence, that will join a long list of ‘Harper’-named imprints across the globe.  Harper Influence will publish a range of nonfiction “spanning popular culture, from general lifestyle and entertainment to stories of survival and inspiration,” the company said.  It added: “Whether in the fields of entertainment, science, medicine, […]

Related Posts

Beijing Book Fair Expands Reach with 15 New Debuting Countries

Beijing Book Fair Expands Reach with 15 New Debuting Countries

The 2024 Beijing International Book Fair is set to open on June 19 and will run until June 24. This year, 15 new countries and regions will be making their debut at the fair, including Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Nigeria, Norway, Slovakia, and Qatar.   Organizers...

HarperCollins Expands with Nonfiction Imprint Harper Influence

HarperCollins Expands with Nonfiction Imprint Harper Influence

HarperCollins is launching another new imprint, Harper Influence, that will join a long list of ‘Harper’-named imprints across the globe.  Harper Influence will publish a range of nonfiction “spanning popular culture, from general lifestyle and entertainment to...

Previous Next
Close
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this

Pin It on Pinterest