Namwali Serpell is a Zambian writer living in the U.S. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing and was selected for the Africa39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. She is also a co-recipient (with Yiyun Li) for a 2020 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction.
Her work includes her debut novel, The Old Drift (Hogarth, 2019), and a book of essays, Stranger Faces (Transit Books, 2020), which was long listed for a Believer Book Award for Nonfiction and a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. She is a professor of English at Harvard.
The Value of Support
"The Rona Jaffe is unique in three ways: 1. it divides the award money equally among the writers 2. it specifically honors potential and 3. it is for women. This goes a long way to redress the way most literary awards have worked in the past and continue to work today. The substantive sum of money provided me with a sense that I could in fact treat my writing as a career, not just a wild dream I tended to on the weekends. But more than that, the award gave me a sense of confidence and a sense of solidarity with other nascent writers. It is the ideal to which I consistently point whenever I'm asked about this aspect of the publishing industry: support women, equally, and at the moment when they most need a boost—when they are on the rise."