Véronique Tadjo wins at L.A. Times Book Prizes 2022.

Véronique Tadjo’s In the Company of Men won in its category at the L.A. Times Book Prizes 2022 announced on April 22, 2022.

The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were founded in 1980 by Art Seidenbaum, a Los Angeles Times book editor from 1978 to 1985. They are awarded annually in Best Biography, Best Current Interest winner, Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, Best Graphic Novel/Comics, Best History, Best mystery/thriller, Best Poetry, Best Science & Technology, and the Ray Bradbury Prize. Namwali Serpell and Marlon James won in their categories in 2020.

On February 23, the finalists for 2022 were revealed with seven writers of African descent making the cut. The winners were announced at the USC’s Bovard Auditorium on April 22, the day before the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books kicked off its first in-person event since the beginning of the pandemic. Among the winners was In the Company of Men by Véronique Tadjo in the fiction category. The book “is unlike anything we’ve ever read,” judges said, calling it “gripping and prescient.”

In the Company of Men has the following blurb;

Drawing on real accounts of the Ebola outbreak that devastated West Africa, this poignant, timely fable reflects on both the strength and the fragility of life and humanity’s place in the world.

Two boys venture from their village to hunt in a nearby forest, where they shoot down bats with glee, and cook their prey over an open fire. Within a month, they are dead, bodies ravaged by an insidious disease that neither the local healer’s potions nor the medical team’s treatments could cure. Compounding the family’s grief, experts warn against touching the sick. But this caution comes too late: the virus spreads rapidly, and the boys’ father is barely able to send his eldest daughter away for a chance at survival.
 
In a series of moving snapshots, Véronique Tadjo illustrates the terrible extent of the Ebola epidemic, through the eyes of those affected in myriad ways: the doctor who tirelessly treats patients day after day in a sweltering tent, protected from the virus only by a plastic suit; the student who volunteers to work as a gravedigger while universities are closed, helping the teams overwhelmed by the sheer number of bodies; the grandmother who agrees to take in an orphaned boy cast out of his village for fear of infection. And watching over them all is the ancient and wise Baobab tree, mourning the dire state of the earth yet providing a sense of hope for the future.
 
Acutely relevant to our times in light of the coronavirus pandemic, In the Company of Men explores critical questions about how we cope with a global crisis and how we can combat fear and prejudice.