Two African women are in the running for the 2020 Booker Prize, in a historic first for the UK’s most prestigious literary prize and a major boost for storytellers on the continent.
Ethiopian-American Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, and Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga, with her novel This Mournable Body, were on the shortlist for the £50,000 ($66,000) award was received with celebration on the African literary scene.
“The fact that there are two Africans, there are three black people on this list, feels like this is a clarion call to the industry that it is possible to judge something fairly, not fall into tokenism, to judge a work for what it is. It feels like it sets a new path for the competitions,” Maaza said after the announcement that she was on the shortlist of six.
“I have often been the only African, the only black person, on a list; and this time it seems like the judges have thrown down a gauntlet and said that they will judge a book by what’s actually written, and not on the reputation of a writer or the reputation of the power they might have on the industry.”