The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing—a charity whose aim is to bring African writing to a wider audience through, among other programming, an annual £10,000 literary award for an exemplary published short story by an African writer—has named Meron Hadero their 2021 winner. Hadero won for her short story “The Street Sweep,” published in ZYZZYVA in 2018.
The first Ethiopian writer to win the Prize since its inception in 2000, Hadero is is the winner of the 2020 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. Her short stories have been published in Ploughshares, Addis Ababa Noir, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, New England Review, and Best American Short Stories, among others. Hadero has been a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University as well as a fellow at Yaddo, Ragdale, and MacDowell, and her writing has been supported by the International Institute at the University of Michigan, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and Artist Trust.
Announcing the winner, judging chair Goretti Kyomhendo said, “The genius of this story lies in Hadero’s ability to turn the lens on the clichéd, NGO story in Africa to ‘do good and do it well’. It takes us away from the external organization coming to Ethiopia to help the poor, and focuses the narrative on Getu, an eighteen-year old street sweeper, figuring out ways to navigate the nuances of the rich and poor. Utterly without self-pity, it is Getu’s naivety that endears us to him. ’The Street Sweep’ is superbly crafted, the language fluid, and weighted with color and memorable symbolism. Optimism, trust and betrayal ride side by side; but ultimately, this is a story about the redeeming power of hope: ‘Hope is the greatest asset a man can have.’”
Read the shortlisted stories, including “The Street Sweep,” here, and watch the announcement of the winner below: