Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo on Tuesday became the first black African woman to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, for her tale of a 10-year-old girl who escapes poverty at home only to find new problems in the United States.
Bulawayo was nominated for her novel “We Need New Names”, which follows the girl’s decision to leave a shanty town in Zimbabwe and move to live with an aunt in the United States.
The author, whose real name is Elizabeth Zandile Tshele, is also the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted for the prestigious prize.
The winner is awarded £50,000 (59,000 euros, $78,500) and normally sees a significant boost in sales.
Bulawayo told AFP that she had no idea she would be on the shortlist and said it was an “amazing feeling” — as well as being a little a bit “awkward”.
“I feel there are so many deserving black women who came before me. So I feel very lucky and honoured, especially as this is my first novel,” she said.
Bulawayo would be the fourth African winner if she triumphs on October 15.
White South African J.M. Coetzee won in 1983 and 1999, while another South African writer, Nadine Gordimer, was joint winner for her novel “The Conservationist” in 1974.
Nigerian-born Ben Okri won for his third novel “The Famished Road” in 1991.
Irish writer Colm Toibin and British author Jim Crace were among the better-known nominees on the six-book shortlist for the 2013 prize.
Crace, who was also shortlisted in 1997, hopes to win with “Harvest”, about a village under mortal threat from outsiders.
Toibin tells the story of a woman trying to piece together the events that led to the death of her son in “The Testament of Mary”.
Jhumpa Lahiri is nominated for “The Lowland”, about two brothers growing up in Kolkata, while American-Japanese author and Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being” is a sweep through the history of a Japanese family.
Eleanor Catton, the youngest nominee at 28, was chosen for “The Luminaries”, about the goldrush in 1860s New Zealand.
Last year’s winner Hilary Mantel made history as the first British author to win the Booker twice.