Noor Naga was announced the Graywolf Press Africa Prize 2019 winner for her manuscript American Girl and Boy from Shobrakheit on September 12, 2019.
US-based Graywolf Press has published some of the best writers from Africa like Nuruddin Farah, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Binyavanga Wainaina, and Anouar Benmalek. They founded the Graywolf Press Africa Prize in 2018 with Kenyan poet Khadija Abdalla Bajaber getting the honours.
The winner of the award this year, judged by A Igoni Barrett, is Egyptian Noor Naga who receives the $12,000 prize money. Her manuscript will also be published in English by Graywolf Press and in Italian by 66thand2nd. Planned for publication by Graywolf Press in 2021, American Girl and Boy from Shobrakheit is a novel about the deadly romance between an Egyptian American woman and a man from the village of Shobrakheit. Told in alternating perspectives, in short, lyric chapters, the novel is set in Cairo. A section of the manuscript was recently published in Granta as the winner of the Disquiet Fiction Prize 2019.
“American Girl and Boy from Shobrakheit seethes with metaphoric passion and emotional intelligence beneath its pie crust of metafictional playfulness, and will reward every rereading with new doses of pleasure,” Barrett said in his judge’s statement. “Noor Naga’s writing is fearless, virtuosic, and pithy with aphorism, her sentences honed to dagger point, thrumming with swag. This is a writer who looks and listens with an assiduous, sensual attention, and whose voice, in this engrossing debut novel, has found a subject to make it sing.”
Noor Naga said in a statement: “For years I’ve been devouring Graywolf books, sharpening my teeth on the likes of Maggie Nelson, Layli Long Soldier, Claudia Rankine, and Solmaz Sharif, all of whom teach me to continuously reimagine the kinds of ethical/political interventions possible through a work of literature. In the face of an increasingly profit-driven publishing industry, there’s no press that takes as many creative risks as Graywolf does in its commitment to challenging hegemonic ideologies and expanding the terms of cultural dialogue. It’s a dream to be able to join this conversation in my small way. I couldn’t be more grateful to the editors at Graywolf, and to Igoni Barrett in particular, for reading my work with such generosity and taking a chance on it.”
Noor Naga’s verse novel Washes Prays is forthcoming in Spring 2020 from McClelland & Stewart to be followed by the 2021 release of American Girl and Boy from Shobrakheit.