Isele Prizes: Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike, Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo Named Winners

Umezurike and Okonkwo won for poetry and fiction, respectively, and Nora Nneka won for nonfiction.
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Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike.

Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike.

This year, Isele Magazine announced The Isele Prizes, to reward their contributors. The three categories—for short stories, poetry, and nonfiction—are worth $200 each. It is the second time that an African publication has launched prizes, after the Brittle Paper Awards (2017-19), founded and run by the platform’s then deputy editor Otosirieze Obi-Young, who later founded Open Country Mag.

Isele released the shortlists last month and has now announced winners for the prizes.

The Isele Short Story Prize went to Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo, for “The Year of the Sun.” The magazine wrote:

Okonkwo’s exceptional short story explores the difficult conversations we have about how we love, our culture and traditions, and the relationship we have with our history. Her language pulses and her structure is controlled. This is a masterfully crafted story, which immerses you in the setting as she builds this world with mathematical precision, such that a reader, even if they aren’t familiar with the period and the culture, sees themselves in her characters. This story stays with you.

The magazine’s managing editor, Tracy Haught, congratulated Okonkwo:

Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike won the Isele Poetry Prize, for “there’s more.” The magazine wrote:

Umezurike’s poem travels around the world, gathering stories about people who search for new beginnings despite the dangers that lurk in the deserts and in the seas, dangers that nip dreams at the bud, but which our seekers must brave for their sanity, for a moment away from the despair they leave behind. Umezurike’s poem is timeless, and we are so lucky he trusted us with his work.

The magazine’s poetry editor, Megan Ross, congratulated Umezurike:

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Nora Nneka received the Isele Nonfiction Prize, for ““Sense of Touch.” The magazine wrote:

Nneka’s deeply moving essay explores the relationship between a daughter and her mother, family trauma, grief, and how these experiences shape a woman’s narrative arc—her relationship with her body, her journey through pregnancy, and the joy that comes with embracing these stories that come together to define who we are and our relationship with our community. Her language is spellbinding.

The magazine’s nonfiction editor, O. Henry Prize winner Adachioma Ezeano, congratulated Nneka on video:

We congratulate the winners.

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