Jowhor Ile & Adachioma Ezeano Win O. Henry Prizes 2021

Their short stories will appear in The Best Short Stories Anthology 2021, guest-edited and introduced by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Being selected is “a thrill,” Ezeano says.
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Jowhor Ile. From Bella Naija.

Jowhor Ile. From Bella Naija.

Two Nigerian writers, Jowhor Ile and Adachioma Ezeano, have been selected, together with 18 others, as winners of the 2021 O. Henry Prizes: Ezeano for “Becoming the Baby Girl,” Ile for “Fisherman’s Stew.” Both stories will appear in The Best Short Stories Anthology 2021, guest-edited and introduced by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The anthology will be published by Anchor Books in September.

Created in honour of William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O. Henry, The O. Henry Prizes were first awarded in 1919. Through the years they have provided “a dazzling platform for modern short story writers at all points in their careers,” the series editor Jenny Minton Quigley writes in the announcement on Literary Hub. Among this year’s winners are Anthony Doerr, Emma Cline, and Sally Rooney.

Previous winners have included Truman Capote, John Cheever, Alice Munro, Yiyun Li, Junot Diaz, Lesley Nneka Arimah, and Adichie herself.

Adachioma Ezeano. From 9jafeminista.
Adachioma Ezeano. From 9jafeminista.

Ezeano’s selected story began in Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus Writing Workshop in 2018, in a class on experimental writing taught by Dave Eggers, editor of McSweeneys Quarterly Concern, where the story was published in 2019.

Inspired by the stories Martina their cousin and house help told her when she was much younger, “Becoming the Baby Girl” is about “runs-girls being runs-girls and more,” Ezeano says in an email to OPEN COUNTRY MAG. “I am not done telling their stories. There is a longer story.” Ezeano is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Kentucky.

Jowhor Ile’s “Fisherman’s Stew,” published in The Sewanee Review, was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2020. A quiet story about love and grief and longing, it centers Nimi who likes to believe that her dead husband Benji comes to her, lies in bed with her, at night.

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Also an alumnus of Adichie’s workshop, Ile is the author of And After Many Days, which won the Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2016. He is currently a visiting professor at West Virginia University.

Adichie, in her introduction, calls the stories selected “profoundly wise.” Jenny Minton Quigley describes the anthology as “a cluster of 20 glimmering stars, each a small consolation, together a small constellation.”

For Ezeano, who was gifted a copy of the O. Henry Prizes anthology as a child, winning this prize is “a thrill. It is like a child swaggering in oversized heels.”

The O. Henry Prize anthology 2021.
The O. Henry Prize anthology 2021.

Here are all the 2021 winners:

Daphne Palasi Andreades
“Brown Girls,” Kenyon Review

David Means
“Two Nurses, Smoking,” The New Yorker

Sindya Bhanoo
“Malliga Homes,” Granta

Crystal Wilkinson
Endangered Species: Case 47401,” Story

Alice Jolly
“From Far Around They Saw Us Burn,” Ploughshares

David Rabe
“Things We Worried About When I Was Ten,” The New Yorker

Karina Sainz Borgo, translated by Elizabeth Bryer
“Scissors,” Granta

Jamel Brinkley
Witness,” The Paris Review

Tessa Hadley
“The Other One,” The New Yorker

Adachioma Ezeano
“Becoming the Baby Girl,” McSweeneys Quarterly Concern

Anthony Doerr
“The Master’s Castle,” Tin House

Tiphanie Yanique
“The Living Sea,” from The Harvard Review

Joan Silber
“Freedom from Want,” Tin House

Jowhor Ile
“Fisherman’s Stew,” The Sewanee Review

Emma Cline
“White Noise,” The New Yorker

Asali Solomon
“Delandria,” McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern

Ben Hinshaw
“Antediluvian,” Harvard Review

Caroline Albertine Minor, Translated by Caroline Waight
“Grief’s Garden,” Granta

Jianan Qian
“To the Dogs,” Granta Online

Sally Rooney
Color and Light,” The New Yorker

Open Country congratulates Jowhor Ile and Adachioma Ezeano.

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Pre-order The Best Short Stories Anthology 2021, guest-edited and introduced by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, HERE.

Ernest Ogunyemi
Ernest O. Ògúnyẹmí was a staff writer at Open Country Mag. His works have recently appeared/are forthcoming in AGNI, Joyland, No Tokens, Olongo Africa, The Dark, Fiyah, Agbowó, Southern Humanities Review, Minnesota Review, McNeese Review, Down River Road, and West Trade Review. He is the curator of The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology.
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