Dina Nayeri received the 2018 Paul Engle Prize, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization. The prize, established in 2011, honors an individual "who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts." Nayeri will receive the prize, which includes a work of art and $10,000, during the Iowa City Book Festival on October 4.
Nayeri is a novelist, essayist and activist who has written extensively about the life and challenges of refugees. She has published two novels, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea and Refuge. She holds a BA from Princeton, an MBA and Master of Education, both from Harvard, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
"Iowa City is where I accepted myself as a writer, as an Iranian, and also an American," Nayeri said. "It was a place of rebirth. Every day I walked into Dey House, passing the great Jim McPherson as he chatted with my classmates and I felt lucky. I read his work and tried to find the courage to talk to him about it. To be named to an award that he inaugurated in his final decade makes me feel a part of something beautiful and important. I hope I can inspire half as much joy and resolve as that brilliant man inspired in me."
Makena Onjerika of Kenya has won the £10,000 (about $13,175) Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story "Fanta Blackcurrant," published in Wasafiri.
Chair of judges Dinaw Mengestu called the story "as fierce as they come--a narrative forged but not defined by the streets of Nairobi, a story that stands as more than just witness. Makena Onjerika's 'Fanta Blackcurrant' presides over a grammar and architecture of its own making, one that eschews any trace of sentimentality in favour of a narrative that is haunting in its humour, sorrow and intimacy."
Onjerika is a graduate of the MFA Creative Writing program at New York University and lives in Nairobi, Kenya.