"The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away" (Bushra al-Fadil)

"As long as the innocent birds were struck with stones and selfish desires, they would continue to land in such ugly places against their will, in patches full of violence and hate."

"As long as the innocent birds were struck with stones and selfish desires, they would continue to land in such ugly places against their will, in patches full of violence and hate."

Sudan / 2016

This is the story of a luckless man who falls for a beautiful, mysterious girl who transforms his luck. Or does she? Bushra al-Fadil hails from Sudan and has published four collections of short stories in Arabic. This story was translated from Arabic, as well. He holds a PhD in Russian language and literature. "The Story of the Girl whose Birds Flew Away" is nominated for this year's Caine Prize. The Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. The winner will be announced on July 3rd.

"The Virus" (Magogodi oaMphela Makhene)

"The man the Steenkamps mistook an attacker turned out the first cyvivor, as we call them now. We went from dismissing him a crazed American bloated on too many McBurgers, to something of a never-ending Vakansie Mann (tourist). Then, eventually, after news reached us in the papers, we took a real interest in this Cyberwar Refugee. But the cyvivors always resisted that name. Sounds too much like Africa, I suppose, even though the government said Africa, having never really been inter-webbed, is the one true refuge."

"The man the Steenkamps mistook an attacker turned out the first cyvivor, as we call them now. We went from dismissing him a crazed American bloated on too many McBurgers, to something of a never-ending Vakansie Mann (tourist). Then, eventually, after news reached us in the papers, we took a real interest in this Cyberwar Refugee. But the cyvivors always resisted that name. Sounds too much like Africa, I suppose, even though the government said Africa, having never really been inter-webbed, is the one true refuge."

South Africa / 2016

First published in The Harvard Review, "The Virus" tells of a hypothetical war in which American "cyvivors"—survivors of a national cyber holocaust—flee America and settle as refugees in South Africa, where they attempt to colonize white Afrikaaners. Makhene tells the story through the lens of an Afrikaaner man, which is interesting. Her writing style is very different from what I've usually encountered; it's incredibly sharp, fast, immersive, and hectic. "The Virus" is nominated for this year's Caine Prize. The Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. This year's five nominees were named on May 16th. The winner will be announced on July 3rd.

Read "The Virus" in full here. 

"Who Will Greet You At Home" (Lesley Nneka Arimah)

"Ogechi woke in the middle of the night with the hair child standing over her. It should not have been able to stand, let alone haul itself onto her bed. Nor should it have been able to fist her hair in a grip so tight her scalp puckered or stuff an appendage into her mouth to block her scream..."

"Ogechi woke in the middle of the night with the hair child standing over her. It should not have been able to stand, let alone haul itself onto her bed. Nor should it have been able to fist her hair in a grip so tight her scalp puckered or stuff an appendage into her mouth to block her scream..."

Nigeria / 2015

"Who Will Greet You At Home" was shortlisted for this year's Caine Prize for African Writing. The Caine Prize is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. 2017's five nominees were named on May 16th. The winner will be announced on July 3rd. Lesley Nneka Arimah is the Nigerian author of What It Means When A Man Falls from the Sky—a short story collection that I devoured and loved. She was also shortlisted for the Caine Prize last year. This dark story is about a lonely Nigerian girl named Ogechi who makes a baby doll out of human hair—a doll which comes to life. It's creepy, intricate and heartbreaking. Her obsession with owning a doll reminds me of Pecola in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. You can read this story in full on The New Yorker's website. It also appears in her book.

Prime: Poetry and Conversation (Various Poets)

Leila Green “Can the fly ever know to stop? — Or a man who abandons his son, can’t he know it amounts the same injury to just kill the son instead?”

Leila Green

“Can the fly ever know

to stop? — Or a man

who abandons his son,

can’t he know it amounts

the same injury

to just kill the son instead?”

U.S.A. / 2014

Prime: Poetry & Conversation is a collection of poems by five queer black poets: Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Saeed Jones, Rickey Laurentiis, Phillip B. Williams and L. Lamar Wilson. The 96-page book dedicates a small section to each poet, allowing readers to immerse themselves in their similar, yet very distinct, modes of writing and thought. These poets blend very well together because they each grapple with themselves and with the world in a different way. Each set of poems reflects upon the conundrum of being queer, male and black. Sibling Rivalry Press, an independent publishing house based in Arkansas, did a fine job to scout and compile a beautifully vibrant group of up-and-coming poets for this collection. The stunning introduction by the esteemed Jericho Brown lets us know that these are the poets that we should look out for in the future. Although Prime was published in 2014 and is thus by no means a totally “new release,” this collection is still relevant as we go into 2017 because we still have not answered the many poignant questions it poses about queerness and blackness. These poems invite ongoing dialogue. For this reason, I particularly enjoy its subtitle, “Poetry and Conversation.” While the second half of the book is literally devoted to transcripts of dialogue between the poets, the poems themselves are launching points for important conversations we need to have with others and with ourselves.

Click here to read my full review of Prime: Poetry and Conversation.