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Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and Percival Everett's Telephone has been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Walking on Cowrie Shells

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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Upcoming Events

VIRTUAL: Nana Nkweti (WALKING ON COWRIE SHELLS) in conversation with Yaa Gyasi, presented by Book Soup

Book Soup in W Hollywood, CAview map
Nana Nweti in conversation with Yaa Gyasi on Walking on Cowrie Shells. This event will be virtual via Crowdcast. Register here.

Nana Nkweti appearing virtually at Vermont Studio Center

Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VTview map
Nana Nkweti appearing virtually at the Vermont Studio Center. Register here:

VIRTUAL: Nana Nkweti in conversation with Andrew Sean Greer on WALKING ON COWRIE SHELLS, presented by Politics & Prose

Politics & Prose in Washington, DCview map
Nana Nkweti in conversation with Andrew Sean Greer. This event will be virtual. Register here.

VIRTUAL: Nana Nkweti + Naomi Jackson on WALKING ON COWRIE SHELLS, presented by Elliott Bay Book Company

Elliott Bay Book Co in Seattle, WAview map

6 PM Pacific / 8 PM Central / 9 PM Eastern. With Naomi Jackson. Check back here for more information.


  • “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.”—
  • “It takes some verve to go from zombies and mermaids to Comic-Con to the suburbs of New Jersey and Cameroon and back again in a single collection, and Nkweti does it in her very first, which is vibrant and polyphonic. . . . [Her prose is] acrobatic and delightful.”—Lit Hub
  • “What unites all these stories is the strength of Nkweti’s writing; it crackles with energy and verve.”—BuzzFeed
  • “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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