Hawa Jande Golakai, Liberia’s award-winning crime fiction writer and author of The Lazarus Effect (Kwela Books, 2011), has been selected as one of Africa’s top 39 writers under the age of 40 from Africa and the Diaspora. The selection was made at the London Book Fair (LBF) breakfast press conference in London on Tuesday April 8th.
The ‘Africa 39’, as the select group is called, is an initiative of the UK-Based Hay Festival which it carries out with World Book Capitals – with Bogota in 2007 and Beirut in 2010. This project comprises the selection and celebration of 39 writers under the age of 40 who have the potential to define the literature of an area or language. ‘Africa 39’ features writers from Africa, South of the Sahara.
The list of the 39 was unveiled at the Port Harcourt World Book Capital stand at the London Book Fair (8th April) and would be announced again during the opening ceremonies of the Port Harcourt World Book Capital programme (22 to 26 April).
Golakai, who made her debut as an author just three years ago with The Lazarus Effect, wowed the industry when she scored the coveted Sunday Times (South Africa) 2012 Literary Award for outstanding suspense and best fiction novel of the year. The Lazarus Effect was also shortlisted for the 2012 University of Johannesburg Debut Prize for Creative Writing as well as the prestigious Wole Soyinka African Fiction prize.
By profession, Golakai is a clinical immunologist and holds a BSc in Molecular and Cell Biology (2004-2005) from the University of Cape Town with honors. However, the success of her first novel has clearly infused confidence to continue in her literary pursuits. Her 2nd title – yet undisclosed – is almost complete.
“It means a lot to me because that’s what most authors look out for: recognition,” says Golakai. “It adds up to your credentials and I think that’s a good start for me especially with The Lazarus Effect being my first novel, that’s where your fame comes in. So for me, I’m very excited as an author and also a Liberian knowing that I was able to make my country proud. I’m also very humbled about all this, I’m not going to let it get to my head and I’m really looking forward to networking with other writers in Port Harcourt.”
The 39 writers have been commissioned to write for an anthology to be published by Bloomsbury with foreword by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. Ellah Allfree will edit the Africa 39 anthology.
The research to arrive at the names of the authors was carried out by Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainana. A long list of about 100 names emerged from screening of the over 200 entries from Africa and the diaspora responded to a call that drew participation from authors, publishers, academics, libraries, readers, etc. around Africa and the diaspora. The panel of judges, who selected the final 39 were- Elechi Amadi, Margaret Busby and Tess Onwueme.