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Book Title

Walking on Cowrie Shells

Author 1
Nana Nkweti
In her powerful, genre-bending debut story collection, Nana Nkweti’s virtuosity is on full display as she mixes deft realism with clever inversions of genre. In the Caine Prize finalist story “It Takes a Village, Some Say,” she skewers racial prejudice and the practice of international adoption, delivering a sly tale about a teenage girl who leverages her adoptive parents to fast-track her fortunes. In “The Devil Is a Liar” a pregnant pastor’s wife struggles with the collision of Western Christianity and her mother’s traditional Cameroonian belief system as she worries about her unborn child.

In other stories, Nkweti vaults past realism, upending genre expectations in a satirical romp about a jaded PR professional trying to spin a zombie outbreak in West Africa, and in a mermaid tale about a Mami Wata who forgoes her power by remaining faithful to a fisherman she loves. In between these two ends of the spectrum there’s everything from an aspiring graphic novelist at a comic con, to a murder investigation driven by statistics, to a story organized by the changing hairstyles of the main character.

Pulling from mystery, horror, realism, myth, and graphic novels, Nkweti showcases the complexity and vibrance of characters whose lives span Cameroonian and American cultures. A dazzling, inventive debut, Walking on Cowrie Shells announces the arrival of a superlative new voice.

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A virtuosic debut collection that roves across genres and styles, by a finalist for the Caine Prize

About the Author

Nana  Nkweti
Credit: Shea Sadulski / Out of Focus Photo Studio
Nana Nkweti is a Caine Prize finalist and alumna of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her work has garnered fellowships from MacDowell, Kimbilio, Ucross, and the Wurlitzer Foundation, among others. She is a professor of English at the University of Alabama.
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  • “[Walking on Cowrie Shells] revels in variety—of character, style, and even genre. . . . Lively and fast-paced, funny and tragic, these stories refuse a singular African experience in favor of a vivid plurality.”The New Yorker, Briefly Noted
  • “A linguistic pole vaulter, [Nana] Nkweti bends language like a master. . . . Walking On Cowrie Shells is a terrific read, each story different and varied from the one before. Nkweti has proven herself a bright new star.”—
  • “Audacious and masterful. . . . Anyone who appreciates authentic and original fiction will find something to love here. And that's a promise.”Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
  • “Beautiful and immersive. . . . Whether Nkweti is writing about water goddesses, zombies, or aspiring graphic novelists, she reveals and celebrates the rich inner lives of those who do not fit neatly into social and cultural categories. . . . Nkweti’s sentences soar, enthralling the reader through their every twist and turn, and often ending with a wry punch. . . . This is a groundbreaking and vital work.”Publishers Weekly, starred review
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