Vamba Sherif

Vamba Sherif’s memoir Ongekende Liefde is on the shortlist for Best Groninger Boek 2022 announced on Thursday, March 10, 2022.

Best Groninger Boek is a literary award organised by the NOORDWOORD Foundation, an association for literary events in Groningen, Netherlands, in collaboration with Forum Groningen. NOORDWOORD’s mission is to put Groningen on the map as the place-to-be for literature and poetry. The award has been handed out annually in the fiction and non-fiction categories since 2010.

The jury for this year is chaired by Christiaan Klasema who works in art and theatre alongside Clemens Gielingh, former librarian and literary organizer Douwe van der Bijl, Museum Menkamaborg director Afiena van IJken, and bookseller Ingrid Sibum. From a total of 38 entries in the fiction category and 27 entries in the non-fiction category, they selected nine books to be considered for the prize. Five are in the fiction category and four in the non-fiction category.

On that list in the nonfiction category, there is Vamba Sherif whose writing has been published in different languages. He has written the novels The Land of the Fathers (1999), Bound to Secrecy (2015), and Land of My Fathers (2016) as well as compiled the anthology Zwart (2018) with Ebissé Rouw. He was shortlisted for his newest title Ongekende Liefde (Unprecedented love) which is a memoir on his life. The book has the following blurb;

“You recently asked me to record your grandmother’s life and the environment we lived in during my childhood.”

These are the first words with which Vamba Sherif addresses his ten-year-old daughter Bendu in Unprecedented Love. He then describes how he grew up in a prominent family of spiritual leaders and scientists in Liberia. A family in which there is room for different faiths and women play a crucial role. When young Vamba breaks unwritten laws, the verdict is harsh: banishment. He ends up in Kuwait, flees to Syria during the Gulf War and eventually ends up in an asylum seekers’ center in the Netherlands. While the bloody civil war in his native country also hits his family hard, Vamba tries to survive in Dutch society.

On the book being shortlisted Sherif said, “My memoir Unprecedented Love on the shortlist of Best Groninger Boek 2022! Grateful!”

The award ceremony will take place during the Boekenweek (on April 9 in Forum Groningen). In addition to the media attention for the nominated and winning books, the prize for the winning authors consists of a limited edition artwork, this time a linocut by Anne Ceasar.