Unlike the 2017 edition of the PEN America Awards that had six Africans authors in its longlist: Teju Cole, Yaa Gyasi, Imbolo Mbue, Igoni A. Barrett, Petina Gappah, and Helen Oyeyemi, the 2018 edition has a far lesser number. Don’t be too shocked that only two African authors: Alexis Okeowo, a Nigerian and Alain Mabanckou, a Congolese star author have been longlisted for the 2018 edition of the award. While Okeowo’s non-fiction book A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa appears in the PEN Open Book Award category, Alain Mabanckou’s eleventh novel Black Moses appears in the PEN Translation Prize category, the award given to a book-length translation of prose published in 2017 from any language into English.
Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses published by The New Press and translated from the French by Helen Stevenson has been described as ‘Oliver Twist in 1970s Africa’ by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal. It’s also been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize. The book is up against: The Book of Emma Reyes, by Emma Reyes, translated from the Spanish by Daniel Alarcon; The Book of Whispers, by Varujan Vosganian, translated from the Romanian by Alistair Ian Blyth; A Horse Walks into a Bar, by David Grossman, translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen; Out in the Open, by Jesus Carrasco, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa; The Impossible Fairy Tale, by Han Yujoo, translated from the Korean by Janet Hong; Affections: A Novel, by Rodrigo Hasbun, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes; Notes of a Crocodile, by Qiu Miaojin, translated from the Chinese by Bonnie Huie; Bark, by Georges Didi-Huberman, translated from the French by Samuel Martin; and Katalin Street, by Magda Szabo, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix.
In the PEN Open Book Award category dedicated to an exceptional book-length work of any genre by an author of color and published in the United States in 2017, Alexis Okeowo’s A Moonless, Starless Sky is up against: Some Say The Lark, by Jennifer Chang; Eastman Was Here, by Alex Gilvarry; My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir, by Jessica B. Harris; Augustown, by Kei Miller; The Tower of the Antilles, by Achy Obejas; For Want of Water: and other poems, by Sasha Pimentel; Lessons on Expulsion: Poems, by Erika L. Sánchez; Ordinary Beast: Poems, by Nicole Sealey; and Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, me & THE WORLD, by Gina Athena Ulysse.
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