Namwali Serpell


Namwali Serpell is a Zambian writer who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. She won the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for women writers in 2011 and was selected for the Africa39, a 2014 Hay Festival project to identify the best African writers under 40. The Old Drift (Hogarth, 2019) is her first novel.

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."