Lesley Nneka Arimah | Nigerian writer, wins 2019 Caine Prize

Lesley Nneka Arimah has won the 2019 Caine Prize for her short story “Skinned”, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (Issue 53) 2018.

Lesley Nneka Arimah

The Nigerian writer took the cash prize of £10,000 home, over her short story about a society in which young girls are ceremonially ‘uncovered’ and must marry in order to regain the right to be clothed.

Announcing the winner of the 2019 Caine Prize at an award dinner on Monday 8 July, Dr. Peter Kimani, Chairman of the Judges said:

“The winner of this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing is a unique retake of women’s struggle for inclusion in a society regulated by rituals. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s
Skinned defamiliarizes the familiar to topple social hierarchies, challenge traditions and envision new possibilities for women of the world. Using a sprightly diction, she invents a dystopian universe inhabited by unforgettable characters where friendship is tested, innocence is lost, and readers gain a new understanding of life.”

The Caine Prize was launched in 2000 and is awarded annually to an African writer of a short story published in English.

This is an short extract from Skinned:

“She had cried when, at 15, her mother had come into her bedroom and, stroking her hair, told Ejem that it was time to remove her cloth. The only people who could get away with keeping their daughters covered for long were the wealthy, who often managed it until the girls could secure wife-cloth.

“But Ejem’s father had grown up a poor man in a village where girls were disrobed as early as possible, some even at age 10, and it was beyond time as far as he was concerned.”

The other Caine Prize shortlisted stories this year were: Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor’s All Our Lives, Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti’s It Takes A Village Some Say, Cherrie Kandie’s Sew My Mouth, and Meron Hadero’s The Wall.

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