Nigerian-British author, Irenosen Okojie has been named the winner of the 2020 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story ‘Grace Jones’.
Okojie’s short story Grace Jones received all-round praise from the judges for the prize as they called it “a radical story that plays with logic, time and place”, and praised it as “risky, dazzling, imaginative and bold”.
The story follows Sidra, a young Martinican woman in London who is wracked with guilt after her whole family dies in a fire that destroys their flat.
In later life, she finds a sense of release working as a celebrity impersonator after the legendary 70s through 80s musician.
However, Sidra has a few dark secrets she’s eager to keep hidden away from the rest of the world.
Okojie said she had always found the actual Grace Jones “hugely inspiring”, and wanted to explore “this idea of trying to subvert the pain of the past by hiding under a different character”.
“I’m really passionate about centering the stories of black women and people of colour. It’s important to show their lived experiences,” she said. “But I like to do it couched within these darkly fantastical worlds, pushing the boundaries of form, ideas and language, so the reader has a different experience.”
The London-based writer says her £10,000 ($13,000) winnings will buy her more time to travel, to write and maybe even a garden shed as “a little enclave” to work in.