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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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  • “Nana Nkweti's ambitious, amphibious tales capture the diverse and complex experience of “hyphenated-Americans” who, like Nkweti, have deep roots in Africa and America. It would be impossible to overstate how much I love this book, and its author.”—Karen Russell, author of Orange World
  • “This totally vibrant collection spins a wonder of love and horror. . . . Nana Nkweti’s words are dazzlingly energetic, world-ranging and straight-up brilliant.”—Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark
  • “Funny and heartbreaking and wonderfully ferocious. It’s been ages since I’ve read sentences with this much verve and snap.”—Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House
  • “Let us thank whoever granted Nana Nkweti her all-access-pass to the human soul. . . . Walking on Cowrie Shells is a collection of verve, audacity, and consummate control.”—Kevin Brockmeier
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