Yewande Omotoso and Ayobami Adebayo are on the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017 longlist that has been announced on the International Day for Women.
The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction has announced the longlist of what is considered the leading prize aimed at celebrating women fiction writers with the winning author receiving £30,000 in prize money. The prize is annually awarded to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English, and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year. There has only had one African winner for the prize; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for her epic novel Half of a Yellow Sun in 2007. There have been some who have come close to winning in. Chimamanda came close with a shortlist in 2004 for Purple Hibiscus and in 2014 for Americanah while Petina Gappah made the longlist in 2016 for The Book of Memory.
The team at the Bailey’s Prize announced those in the running for this year’s honours. They are some of the leading women in fiction today with names like Eimear McBride who beat out Chimamanda in 2014 with her A Girl is a Half Formed Thing. Then there is the perennial shortlistee of the Margaret Atwood who has been given three nominations but has never won it.
As you can imagine, this is a blog that focuses on African writers and this year there are two of us on the list proving that #BlackLivesMatter (I’m looking at you Windham-Campell Prize; share the wealth y’all). They are South African/Nigerian/Barbadian Yewande Omotoso for The Woman Next Door and Nigerian debutant Ayobami Adebayo for Stay With Me.
We have featured Omotoso a lot on this blog, we are huge fans truth be told, since we set up in 2014. She has been shortlisted on the inaugural Etisalat Prize for African Literature for her debut novel Bom Boy where she lost to Noviolet Bulawayo. She is a Miles Morland Scholar and the only one to publish a novel after her year being supported by the prize.
On her part Ayobami Adebayo is relatively new to this blog but we first took note of her when her manuscript was shortlisted for the Kwani Manuscript project. Her stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, and one was highly commended in the 2009 Commonwealth Short Story Competition. Ayobami has been the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Ledig House, Hedgebrook, Threads, Ebedi Hills and Ox-Bow. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria.
“The judges had an unusually large number of books of extraordinary quality to choose from this year, and so I can’t say that it was an easy process to come up with a list as short as sixteen,” commented Tessa Ross, Chair of Judges. “However, we’re all thrilled by where we’ve ended up and truly excited by the quality and range of talent on this year’s longlist. It’s a great showcase for the very best contemporary women’s fiction – we hope that it will inspire readers everywhere.”
This year’s judges now have the unenviable task of whittling these sixteen titles down to just six shortlisted titles before finally choosing the winner which will be revealed at an awards ceremony hosted in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall on 7 June 2017.