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Nigerian-American Author Scoops Major Literary Prize
7/15/2013 11:33:45 AM

Tope Folarin

(GIN) Nigerian-American writer Tope Folarin is this year's winner of the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing, the first such prize to be given to a writer based outside of Africa.

His short story - 'Miracle', is set in an evangelical church of Nigerian expatriates in Texas. Judges called it "utterly compelling"and a "delightful and beautifully paced narrative."

"I'm elated", Folarin said. "I'm a writer situated in the Nigerian diaspora, and the Caine prize means a lot, it feels like I'm connected to a long tradition of African writers."

"The Caine prize is broadening its definition and scope. I consider myself Nigerian and American, both identities are integral to who I am. To win, feels like a seal of approval."

Folarin's prize-winning work is an extract from his forthcoming novel "The Proximity of Distance."

Using the image of a Texas church presided over by a blind prophet, Folarin examines "religion and the gullibility of those caught in the deceit that sometimes comes with faith" through the eyes of a young believer.

Folarin was born and raised in the U.S., where he lives and works.

Four other Nigerians and one Sierra Leonean were also shortlisted for the prize. From Nigeria, Abubaka Adam Ibrahim was nominated for The Whispering Trees; Chinelo Okparanta for America, and Elnathan John for Bayan Layi, a story about street children. Pede Hollist, from Sierra Leone, was shortlisted for Foreign Aid, about returning to Sierra Leone after 20 years in the US.

Folarin is the recipient of writing fellowships from the Institute for Policy Studies and the journal Callaloo, and he serves on the board of the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Besides receiving a $15,000 award, he is invited to become a Writer-in-Residence at Georgetown University, in his current hometown of Washington DC, and given an opportunity to participate in Cape Town's Open Book Festival which runs Sept. 7-11.

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