Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor has won the prestigious 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize for his story, “All Our Lives”, his multiple-identity story examining the lives of disaffected men who drift into Nigerian cities in pursuit of a “better life”. The judges described Okafor’s “All Our Lives” as wry, cleared-eyed, humorous and compassionate. This is the first time in the prize’s five year history that a man has won – previous winners include Okwiri Oduor in 2013, Diane Awerbuck in 2014, Cat Hellisen in 2015, and Sibongile Fisher in 2016. By being the 2017 winner, Okafor has set the pace for other male writers and will receive $800 prize money.
Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor is a Nigerian writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Litro, Harvard University’s Transition, Warscapes, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. A 2018 Rhodes Scholar finalist, he has been twice nominated for the Short Story Day Africa prize and the Pushcart Prize. His writing has been shortlisted for the 2017 Awele Creative Trust award, the 2016 Problem House Press Short Story Prize, and the 2016 Southern Pacific Review Short Story Prize. A two-time recipient of the Festus Iyayi Award for Excellence for Prose/Playwriting, he is currently a 2018 Kathy Fish fellow and writer-in-residence at Smoke-Long Quarterly.
This year saw a change in the reading and judging process, as outlined in the long list announcement here. Joint runners-up for the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize are Agazit Abate for her story “The Piano Player” and Michael Yee for his story “God Skin”.
Judges described the “The Piano Player” as a brilliant inversion of the “African abroad” narrative as it presents snapshots of life in Addis Abada through the eyes and ears of a pianist in a luxury hotel bar. “God Skin” by Michael Yee weaves together alienation, forbidden love and intimate violence against a subtle backdrop of the scars of Liberia’s civil war.
Agazit and Michael will each receive $150, a 50% split of the prize money allocated for second and third place.
The winning stories are published in ID: New Short Fiction from Africa, edited by Helen Moffett, Nebila Abdulmelik and Otieno Owino. ID is a collection of the twenty-one long listed stories from the 2017 Short Story Day Africa Prize for African Short Fiction, and will be available as an e-book in Africa later today. ID is co-published by Short Story Day Africa and New Internationalist. The winning stories will be available to read online in the 2 July issue of The Johannesburg Review of Books.
Congratulations to the winners.