The news that this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction nominees are a diverse group shouldn’t really come as a surprise, as it is the one literary award where women are central, and diversity seems to be a matter of course. On a list that includes beloved Canadian author Margaret Atwood, the news that these African authors are on it made it even sweeter for this year’s International Women’s Day announcement.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was nominated in 2004 when it was known as the Orange Prize, she won it in 2007 for “Half of a Yellow Sun” when it was called the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, and was again nominated in 2014 for “Americanah” after it was named the Baileys Prize. Ayobami Adebayo now follows her fellow Nigerian in being nominated for her debut novel, for Stay With Me. The novel about a woman’s desperate attempts to have a child has been getting high praise, and none more so than to be on the Baileys longlist. Adebayo’s writing process is nothing short of a good story itself, and she revealed it to Kwani.
Yewande Omotoso, also of Nigerian descent and based in South Africa, has been nominated for her second novel “The Woman Next Door”. Omotoso gives good press, and this wonderful review of the book, about two women who at first glance are neighbours and adversaries, reveals her wit and rigour. Omotoso is also an architect, and lives in Johannesburg.
South African author Fiona Melrose is also on the longlist with her debut novel “Midwinter”, about a father and son battling their grief after beloved wife and mother Cecelia dies in Zambia.
The panel of judges includes acclaimed Scottish author Aminatta Forna, who is also of Sierra Leonean descent. Tessa Ross, chair of the judging panel, said: “We were looking for excellence in all ways, including stories that resonate with women and readers living now, even if they are not set in the present, because the exciting thing about reading is that it wakes you up to the world you are living in.” Of the range of perspectives and nationalities on the list, she added: “All diversity is something we should strive to do more of and celebrate.”
The shortlist will be announced on April 3rd, and the final awards ceremony will be on June 7 at London’s Royal Festival Hall. We wish all nominees the best of luck!