University of California, Berkeley’s Namwali Serpell Wins the Caine Prize

Serpell_C. NamwaliNamwali Serpell, an associate professor of English at the University of California, is the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize, honoring the best writing by an African author. The award was presented on July 7 at a ceremony at the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford.

Zoë Wicomb, a South African author who was chair of the judges committee for this year’s Caine Prize, said that “from a very strong shortlist we have picked an extraordinary story about the aftermath of revolution with its liberatory promises shattered. It makes demands on the reader and challenges conventions of the genre. It yields fresh meaning with every reading. Formally innovative, stylistically stunning, haunting and enigmatic in its effects.”

Dr. Serpell is a native of Zambia and came to the United States at the age of 9. Her parents returned to Zambia in 2002. Her father is a professor of psychology at the University of Zambia and her mother is an economist who has worked for the United Nations.

Professor Serpell was honored for her short story “The Sack,” which can be viewed here. She is the first author from Zambia to win the Caine Prize. The Caine Prize comes with a cash award of £10,000. Dr. Serpell announced that she would share the prize money with the other authors who were on the short list for the Caine Prize.

As the winner of the Caine Prize, Dr. Serpell will have the opportunity to take up a month’s residence at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as a Writer-in-Residence at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice.

Dr. Serpell joined the faculty at Berkeley in 2008 and was promoted and granted tenure in 2014. She is the author of Seven Modes of Uncertainty (Harvard University Press, 2014). Dr. Serpell is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English language and literature from Harvard University.

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