BOSTON — NoViolet Bulawayo, born in Tsholotsho and now a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, is this year’s winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for We Need New Names (Little, Brown).
The novel follows a 10-year-old girl who leaves a shantytown in Zimbabwe to live with an aunt in Detroit.
Finalists for the award, which honours the best debut book of fiction by an American author, are The Residue Years (Bloomsbury), an autobiographical novel by Mitchell S Jackson, who is black and grew up in Portland, Oregon and The Old Priest (University of Pittsburgh), a story collection by Anthony Wallace, who teaches writing at Boston University.
This year’s competition was so fierce that judges added a third honourable mention.
The honourees are Jasmine Beach-Ferrara’s Damn Love (Ig), linked stories set in San Francisco and North Carolina; Kristopher Jansma’s The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards (Viking) about a young man’s quest to become a writer; and Ethan Rutherford’s The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories (Ecco), a collection with historical and contemporary themes.
The 2014 Pen New England Awards honouring regional authors for best fiction, nonfiction and poetry will go to Jennifer Haigh’s News from Heaven (HarperCollins), stories set in a Pennsylvania coal mining town; Doug Bauer’s What Happens Next?: Matters of Life and Death (University of Iowa), a memoir in essays; and Karen Skolfield’s debut poetry collection Frost in the Low Areas (Zone 3).
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks will be the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony, to be held on April 6.
Last month, Bulawayo won the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature for debut fiction, for the novel We Need New Names.
Having missed out on both the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award — it was shortlisted for both — Bulawayo’s novel bagged what amounts to Africa’s richest open literary award.
She receives £15 000, by comparison, the Caine Prize — which she won in 2011 — is worth £10 000.
The on-again, off-again NLNG Prize is worth considerably more at $100 000, but is only open to Nigerians; the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, at R75 000, is worth about
£4 150 and is only open to South African citizens and residents.
— Boston Globe/Entertainment Reporter