I was delighted to be invited by Midas PR to celebrate the shortlist and upcoming announcement of the winner of Dylan Thomas Prize 2021 on Thursday 13th May.
About the prize
Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence.
The Prize is awarded to the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.
Dylan Thomas, the quintessential adolescent writer, was ideally suited to serve as an inspiration to young writers everywhere. The freshness and immediacy of his writing were qualities that he never lost. The Prize seeks to ensure that readers today will have the chance to savour the vitality and sparkle of a new generation of young writers.
“Dylan Thomas was the Swansea–born poet whose spell-binding words and performances conquered London and North America and identified him as one of the most influential writers of the mid twentieth century. The Prize established in his name has captured the imagination of writers internationally and in recent years thirty short-listed writers from all continents have come to Wales to speak to students and writing classes. The Prize has been won by writers from Wales and Northern Ireland, a Vietnamese Australian and three Americans. Swansea University is the chief sponsor of the Prize and is proud to be associated with a competition that invites entries from young writers from around the world”. (Peter Stead, Founder and President of the International Dylan Thomas Prize)
The partnership between Swansea University and the International Dylan Thomas Prize grows from common goals: we aim to identify and nurture talent, to celebrate creativity, and to achieve international excellence. We want to take the best of Swansea to the world and bring artists, scholars and students from around the globe to South Wales. As an ambitious, research intensive university, Swansea thrives on the creativity of students and staff across our many disciplines. We hope that over the years to come you will join us and the International Dylan Thomas Prize in applauding and supporting the very best young writers.
- Alligator and Other Stories by Dima Alzayat (Picador) – short story collection (Syria/USA)
- Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (HarperCollins, 4th Estate) – novel (USA)
- The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (Faber) – novel (Nigeria/USA)
- Pew by Catherine Lacey (Granta) – novel (USA)
- Luster by Raven Leilani (Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – novel (USA)
- My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (HarperCollins, 4th Estate) – novel (USA)
More information about the this years prize can be found at
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – A Review
They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died.
One afternoon, a mother opens her front door to find the length of her son’s body stretched out on the veranda, swaddled in akwete material, his head on her welcome mat. The Death of Vivek Oji transports us to the day of Vivek’s birth, the day his grandmother Ahunna died. It is the story of an over protective mother and a distant father, and the heart-wrenching tale of one family’s struggle to understand their child, just as Vivek learns to recognize himself.
Teeming with unforgettable characters whose lives have been shaped by Vivek’s gentle and enigmatic spirit, it shares with us a Nigerian childhood that challenges expectations. This novel, and its celebration of the innocence and optimism of youth, will touch all those who embrace it.
I adored this novel, and revelled in the authors ability to weave not only a story but also her skill in questioning our expectations of ourselves and others.
Vivek was the cog in which we and the characters rotated, the linch pin that bound it all together. His birth was a contradiction, happiness at his birth, grief at the death of his fathers mother. It set the tone for the rest of his life, a life Emezi ended on the first page.
We read as his mother wound herself in grief, constantly questioned family and friends, desperate for answers as to how and why he died.
His cousin, Osita, his friend Juju, Elizabeth, Somto and Olunne shared their grief but also secrets, ones that we and the family wanted to learn.
Emezi made us wait, instead plunged us backwards, to Viveks life, to his parents expectations, to achieve, to marry well. But could he live up to those expectations, what if what he wanted was different, what if his persona, his thought processes were all so very different?
The way in which Emezi tackled those questions was wonderful, the physical and in particular the mental trauma he endured made me angry and frustrated. I had to stop and remind myself that this was Nigerian society, maybe not as progressive or broad minded as that in which I live.
The effect it had on his friends, particularly Osita went from sheer happiness to despair, and maybe guilt after Vivek’s untimely death. The protective circle they formed around Vivek was poignant, a force field that allowed him to be who he wanted to be.
When the truth emerged I felt sadness, frustration not only for Vivek but for those he left behind. There was however a feeling of closure, of hope and ultimately the recognition of an author who had written a wonderfully poignant and thought provoking novel.
I would like to thank Midas Pr for a copy of The Death of Vivek Oji to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the Blogtour Celebration of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2021
About the author
Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist based in liminal spaces. They are a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35’ award for 2018, selected by Carmen Maria Machado. Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Emezi holds two degrees, including an MPA from New York University. In 2017, Emezi was awarded a Global Arts Fund grant and a Sozopol Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction. They won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa, and their writing has been published by Dazed Magazine, The Cut, Buzzfeed, Granta Online, Vogue.com, and Commonwealth Writers, among others. Freshwater, which was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in fiction by the American Library Association, is their debut novel.