Nigerian Writer, Helen Oyeyemi, wins PEN USA 2017 OPEN BOOK Award

Helen Oyeyemi
Photo: Numero Cinq

Helen Oyeyemi, the author of the globally acclaimed novel, “The Icarus Girl”, has been declared winner of the PEN America OPEN BOOK Award 2017.

She won the prize for the category of the “Exceptional Book-Length Work of Literature By An Author of Color Published In 2016”.

This announcement followed the news of the finalists for 2017 America Literary Awards in various categories published a few weeks ago.  Helen Oyeyemi’s latest triumph is seen as a remarkable feat considering the impressive names on the shortlist of finalists that included Petina Gappa (Zimbabwe), Teju Cole (Nigeria),Yaa Gyasi (Ghana) and Abdellatif Laabi.

Ms. Oyeyemi won  OPEN BOOK award for her 2016 book “What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours” with a cash prize of $5,000.

The judges for the category were Ishmael Beah, Major Jackson and Bich Minh Nguyen.

Helen Oyeyemi, who had received the Somerset Maughan Award in 2010, was in 2013 named as one of Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’.

Ms. Oyeyemi who moved to the UK at the age of four from Nigeria where she was born, now lives in Prague.

The impressive productions from her literary career include: What Is Not Yours is Not Yours (2016); Boy, Snow, Bird (2014); Mr. Fox (2011); White For Witching (2009); The Opposite House (2007); The Icarus Girl (2005), and Juniper’s Whitening  and Victimese (2005).

Nigerians across the world have been applauding the latest feat scored by Ms. Oyeyemi.

“I read her first major work The Icarus Girl, since then she has been off my radar!” Ayodele Oso stated.

Another writer, Chinwe Madubuike, also an early admirer of Ms. Oyeyemi’s work ,said ” I was just wondering about her the other day. Happy for her and looking forward to reading her latest.”

Teju Cole, who is Helen Oyeyemi’s compatriot, is still in the running for the PEN /Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. This category is for a book of essays published in 2016 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature worth. It is worth $10,000 to the winner. The winner of this category will be announced live at the 2017 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony hosted by Aasif Mandvi on March 27 at The New School’s John L. Tishman Auditorium in New York.


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