‘Grace Jones’ short story wins Irenosen Okojie the AKO Caine prize for Africa literature

Irenosen Okojie centres the lived experiences of black women in the darkly fantastical world that she writes fiction in. (Photo by Awakening/Getty Images)
Irenosen Okojie centres the lived experiences of black women in the darkly fantastical world that she writes fiction in. (Photo by Awakening/Getty Images)
Awakening/Getty Images
  • The AKO Caine prize for African literature comes with a £10,000 cash prize.
  • The short story is about a woman who impersonates Grace Jones while going through a mourning period.
  • The short story was first published in 2019 as a part of the author’s short story collection Nudibranch.


The AKO Caine prize for African Writing has been awarded to Irenosen Okojie. The award, which comes with a £10,000 cash prize, looks to celebrate Okojie for her short story, Grace Jones

The short story tells the story of a woman who impersonates Grace Jones while she mourns losing her family to a house fire. Although the author has always found Grace Jones inspiring, the short story was written in response to Okojie wanting to explore what it would look like if one tried to subvert the pain of the past by living as someone else. 

Grace Jones was first published in 2019 as a part of the author’s collection of short stories, Nudibranch. The book follows her debut novel Butterfly Fish and another collection of stories titled Speak Gigantular. The year 2020 sees her working on a second novel.  

Chair of the Caine prize judging panel and director of The Africa Centre, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp told The Guardian how the story is worthy of the status of world-class fiction because of its ability to move “exquisitely and seamlessly between the exploration of the universal experiences of unspeakable suffering, pleasure and escape, and the particular experience of being black and African in a global city such as London” while demonstrating what it can mean to be and perform blackness in the world.  

Speaking about her literary interests, Okojie tells The Guardian she is “really passionate about centering the stories of black women… It’s important to show their lived experiences. But I like to do it couched within these darkly fantastical worlds, pushing the boundaries of form, ideas and language, so the reader has a different experience”.