The Nigerian Writer Pemi Aguda Wins the 2020 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award

The Nigerian writer Pemi Aguda – winner of the Writivism Short Story Prize in 2015 for her story “Caterer, Caterer”, and who was shortlisted last year for the Brittle Paper Award for Fiction for her short story “24 Alhaji Williams Street“, for which she was also a finalist for the US National Magazines Award this year – has received the 2020 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award for her novel “The Suicide Mothers”. 

The Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award is awarded by the Deborah Rogers Foundation to a new writer whose “submission demonstrates outstanding literary talent and who needs financial support to complete their work”. The prize comes with £10,000 to the winner. Pemi Aguda’s winning submission, “The Suicide Mothers”, was selected from 876 entries, 8 longlisted entries, and a shortlist of three strong works. The other shortlisted writers include Stephen Buoro for “The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa” (in second place) and S. Bhattacharya-Woodward for “Zolo and Other Stories”; both will receive £1,000 each.

Everything you look for as a reader, a bookseller, an editor, a publisher.

Pemi’s novel, which, among other things, is about “[t]he politics of Lagos, environmental concerns and the coming of age of [a] young and pregnant protagonist”, has been described as “a wonderfully kinetic and gripping story.” It has also been described as “utterly contemporary” and “mythic”. Max Porter, one of the judges for the prize this year, described it as “everything you look for as a reader, a bookseller, an editor, a publisher. It’s got this incredibly compelling setup. The opening is world-class… Truly brilliant writing. I can’t wait for readers to discover it. Very strange… It’s quite moving. It’s just an absolute winner.”

In her acceptance speech, Pemi said the prize is “encouraging. And to be receiving support of this size, especially now, it fills me with so much peace.”

Congratulations to Pemi Aguda. We can’t wait to read this book. 

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