Ugandan Author Wins Ksh 16.5 Million Literary Prize For a Book Once Rejected For Being “Too African”


Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, a Manchester-based author whose debut novel was initially rejected by British publishers, has won one of the world’s richest literary prizes: The Windham Campbell Prizes from Yale University in the US. She will receive $165,000 (Ksh. 16.5 million)

Established in 2013 “with a gift from the late Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy M. Campbell,” and administered by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prizes recognizes writers in the fields of fiction, poetry, drama and nonfiction as a way “to support their writing”

In her citation, Makumbi was chosen for how she, in her novel Kintu, “opens up a bold and innovatory vista in African letters, encompassing ancient wounds that disquiet the present, and offering the restitution to be found in memory and ritual.”

Makumbi said news of the award came out of the blue. “It’s American, and normally it’s people who have got so many books [behind them],” she said. “So I’m surprised how I was one of them.”

Makumbi’s debut novel Kintu was first published in Kenya four years ago after British publishers rejected it for being “too African”. It was finally released in the UK this January.