Nigerian writer Arinze Ifeakandu has been awarded one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize – for his ‘exhilarating’ debut God’s Children Are Little Broken Things, a stunning short fiction collection, whose nine stories simmer with loneliness and love, and depict what it means to be gay in contemporary Nigeria.
Described as ‘gorgeous…full of subtlety, wisdom and heart’ by Sarah Waters, ‘quietly transgressive’ by Damon Galgut and awarded the 2022 Republic of Consciousness Prize, God’s Children Are Little Broken Things has established twenty-eight-year-old Ifeakandu as a vital new voice in literary fiction.
Ifeakandu was awarded the prestigious £20,000 Prize for God’s Children Are Little Broken Things (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson) at a ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 11 May, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on Sunday 14 May, with November 2023 marking seventy years since the Welsh poet’s death.
Chair of Judges, Di Speirs, said: “We were unanimous in our praise and admiration for this exhilarating collection of nine stories. Arinze Ifeakandu’s debut shines with maturity, the writing bold, refreshing and exacting but never afraid to linger and to allow characters and situations to develop and change, so that the longer stories are almost novels in themselves. A kaleidoscopic reflection of queer life and love in Nigeria, the constraints, the dangers and the humanity, this is a collection that we wanted to press into many readers’ hands around the world and which left us excited to know what Arinze Ifeakandu will write next.”
Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories, and drama.
The other titles shortlisted for the 2023 Prize were: Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Atlantic Books), Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press), I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Books/Granta), Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing), and Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus, Vintage).
Arinze Ifeakandu joins an illustrious list of writers to have been awarded this prestigious Prize, including Raven Leilani, Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, Kayo Chingonyi, Fiona McFarlane and Max Porter.
ABOUT THE SWANSEA UNIVERSITY DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE 2023 WINNER
God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
In this stunning debut from one of Nigeria’s most promising young writers, the stakes of love meet a society in flux.
A man revisits the university campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then. A daughter returns home to Lagos after the death of her father, where she must face her past – and future – relationship with his long-time partner. A young musician rises to fame at the risk of losing himself and the man who loves him.
Generations collide, families break and are remade, languages and cultures intertwine, and lovers find their ways to futures; from childhood through adulthood; on university campuses, city centres, and neighbourhoods where church bells mingle with the morning call to prayer.
These nine stories of queer male intimacy brim with simmering secrecy, ecstasy, loneliness and love in their depictions of what it means to be gay in contemporary Nigeria.
Arinze Ifeakandu was born in Kano, Nigeria. An AKO Caine Prize for African Writing finalist and A Public Space Writing Fellow, he is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His work has appeared in A Public Space, One Story, and Guernica. God's Children Are Little Broken Things is his first book.
ABOUT THE SWANSEA UNIVERSITY DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE 2023 JUDGING PANEL
Di Speirs is the Books Editor at BBC Audio. She produced the first ever Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 and has directed scores of Book at Bedtimes, dramatisations and short stories. Now the Editor of the London books team she’s responsible for BBC Readings and Audiobooks, Radio 4's Open Book and BookClub, and World Book Club and World Book Cafe on the World Service. A long-time advocate of the formidable power of the short story, she has been integral to the BBC National Short Story Award since it began in 2005, is the returning judge on the panel and is also behind the BBC Young Writers' Award. She has edited three story collections for the BBC. An Honorary member of the RSL, she is a regular literary judge and has been a nominator twice for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative (Literature). She is a board member of the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and is on Lancaster University’s Institute for Social Futures Advisory Board.
Jon Gower is a former BBC Wales arts and media correspondent who has over 40 books to his name. These include The Story of Wales, which accompanied a landmark TV series, the travelogue An Island Called Smith and Y Storïwr which won the Wales Book of the Year. His latest book is The Turning Tide: A Biography of the Irish Sea. Jon is currently writing a Welsh language historical novel about the polar explorer Edgar Evans, a collection of essays about mountains as well as a volume about the American footballer Raymond Chester, due out in 2024. He lives in Cardiff.
Maggie Shipstead is the New York Times-bestselling author of three novels and a short story collection. Her novel Great Circle was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She is a graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the winner of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles.
Rachel Long’s debut collection, My Darling from the Lions (Picador 2020/Tin House 2021) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, The Costa Book Award, The Rathbones Folio Prize, the Jhalak Prize, and The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. The US edition of My Darling from the Lions was a New York Times Book Review, and named one of the 100 must-read books of 2021 by TIME.
Prajwal Parajuly, the son of a Nepali mother and a Nepali-Indian father, is the author of The Gurkha’s Daughter: Stories and Land Where I Flee, a novel. His works have been shortlisted for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize and the Mogford Prize in the UK, the Emile Guimet Prize and the First Novel Prize in France and longlisted for the Story Prize in the US. He lives in Paris and teaches at Sciences Po.