Ukamaka Olisakwe Wins 2021 SprinNG Women Authors Prize

The novelist and Isele editor’s second novel, Ogadinma, Or: Everything Will Be Alright, will receive marketing worth N200,000.
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Ukamaka Olisakwe. Credit: Ukamaka Olisakwe.

Ukamaka Olisakwe. Credit: Ukamaka Olisakwe.

Every year, the SprinNG Women Authors Prize awards a female Nigerian author of a full-length book in print with N200,000 worth of marketing and distributing the title. Ukamaka Olisakwe is the winner this year for her novel, Ogadinma, Or: Everything Will Be Alright. 

In Olisakwe’s novel, the eponymous Ogadinma’s dreams of a university education are brought to a rude halt when a man rapes her. Her father sends her off to an aunt in Lagos when he learns of the resultant pregnancy and abortion, and there, she grapples with loss, abuse in a marriage to an older man, trauma and societal expectations.

Ukamaka Olisakwe - ogadinma - indigo press 1
Credit: The Indigo Press.

Tomi Adesina, Roseline Mgbodichinma, Kemi Falodun, and Jakky Bankong-Obi were the prize judges. Adesina called it “An outstanding read!” She said, “It takes you through different motions and you cannot but applaud the author for such delivery. One minute you’re crawling in fear for the protagonist, the other you’re annoyed by her naivety, but at no point do you doubt the writer’s skills at placing us in the heart of the story.”

Published by The Indigo Press in the U.K. and Masobe Books in Nigeria, the novel was among Granta’s “Top Reads of 2020.” Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review and said it was a “smart, unforgettable novel [that] sings out with an earnest hope for an end to intergenerational abuse.” The novelist Chinelo Okparanta lauded the book’s “vivid, engaging prose.”

Olisakwe was recently profiled in Open Country Mag. Her work foregrounds women’s stories. Ogadinma, Or: Everything Will Be Alright is her second novel, after Eyes of a Goddess (2012).

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In a comment on her win, she told us, “I am the second woman to win this prize. It is an honor I do not take lightly. Before now, we rarely had any national prize that focused on the works of women. So much has since changed, and we have SprinNG to thank for this shift in the culture; for opening up new possibilities and platforming Nigerian women who tell diverse and important stories.”

An Africa39 honoree and Iowa’s International Writers’ Program fellow, Olisakwe is studying for a PhD in English at the University of South Dakota. She started literary curation last year with Isele, a magazine she launched in honor of her grandmother.

“I hope that this noble organization will continue to recognize our women,” she said.

Paula Willie-Okafor
Paula Willie-Okafor is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. She is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she is custodian of The Writers' Community (TWC). Her writing has appeared in Kissing Dynamite Magazine and Praxis Magazine.

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