Irenson Okojie is the winner of the AKO Caine prize with her story Grace Jones . In May The shortlist of five exceptional authors was announced. So, after, I believe, considerable deliberation we have a winner. On my Twitter I mentioned that I was rooting for Remy Ngamijes’ ‘The Neighbourhood Watch’ and ‘ How to Marry an African President-by Erica Sugo Anyadike. Despite the fact that none of my preferred stories won, the winner Grace Jones by Irenson is equally worthy.
I believe the judges must have found it quite difficult to nominate an overall winner. Its a pity there is no space for 2nd or 3rd place. But you can only have one king (or queen ) of a country. So we can only have one winner. The judges were looking for a story which had lasting power. A story, which after reading the last page you are still thinking about it. A story which changes perception or sheds light on new perspectives . Also a story which brings light to voices which are under represented. A superbly written story. Grace Jones seems to have ticked all these boxes, and more. Okojie excellently pushes the boundaries with language , form and ideas and has succeeded in making her writing space exciting and provocative
The story is about Sidra, a young woman from Martinique . As Sidra moonlights as a Grace Jones look-alike, she suffers inner turmoil after she blames herself for the loss of her family in a tower block fire. After this great loss Sidra struggles to forgive herself as she lives on as a survivor.
On winning the prize, Okojie states that she never expected it. Most especially as she deems her writing as being a bit ‘weird. Because her books are only published in London they are yet to be distributed in Africa . However, she believes that she now has an international audience.
So, once again, a big congratulations to Irenosen for a well deserved prize.
All the shortlisted stories are available to read on the prizes website