Namwali Serpell is a Zambian author and an associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. She won the prestigious Caine Prize for African writing for her short story ‘The Sack.’
Serpell’s name is usually involved with the Cainnes Award and her name NBpops up wherever literary awards are scheduled. Her first published story Muzungu was shortlisted in 2010.
Serpell’s historic victory is inspiring to many but more than the victory, observers were surprised by her decision to share the £10,000 (about $15,000) prize money equally with the four other shortlisted writers — Masande Ntshanga, FT Kola, Elnathan John and Segun Afolabi.
“I think people assume from the outside that it’s an act of generosity or purported kindness on my part but it was not,” she told South African online news platform Mail&Guardian, on Skype from the United States where she resides. “It was a protest against the structure of the prize, so I made the decision on my own, having looked at the various factors and thought about what meant the most to me. And the money is not what meant the most to me. I thought the prize structure worked against the spirit of supporting and encouraging my fellow writers,” Serpell said.
Namwali Serpell was born and raised in Zambia until she moved with her parents to the United States in 1989. Her first published story Muzungu was selected for ‘The Best American Short Stories’. Her recently completed novel Furrow is set in the Bay Area of US. It is the tale of a 12-year old girl who loses her younger brother. As an adult this girl meets a man who looks just like her brother, however this seeming reunion unfolds deceit and delusion. Breaking is a work in progress and looks at three Zambian families – black, white and brown – over the last century. In September 2011, together with six other writers, Serpell was awarded the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards. Namwali Serpell works as an Assistant Professor of English at University of California, Berkeley.
Born 1980 in Lusaka, Zambia, where her family still lives, Serpell teaches in the United States.Namwali Serpell’s father is a British-Zambian ànd professor of psychology at the University of Zambia, while her mother is an economist At the age of nine she moved to Baltimore, US.
In 2011, she was awarded the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a prize for beginning women writers. In April 2014 she was named on the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature.
She was educated in the United States, studying literature at Harvard and Yale. Since 2008 she has lived in California, where she is an associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.