Enyeribe Ibegwam Wins Fourth Annual Chautauqua Janus Prize
Author Will Give Online Lecture and Reading as Part of Chautauqua Institution Summer Assembly
Chautauqua Institution is delighted to announce “After School Hours” by Enyeribe Ibegwam as the 2021 winner of the Chautauqua Janus Prize.
As the author selected from nine finalists by judge Rion Amilcar Scott, Ibegwam receives $5,000 and will present a public lecture and reading at a celebratory event at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, as part of the online portion of Chautauqua Institution’s 2021 Summer Assembly.
Raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Ibegwam has been awarded a PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize, was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and was a 2020 finalist for the Chautauqua Janus Prize. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in PEN America Best Debut Stories 2019, Prairie Schooner, The Southampton Review, Auburn Avenue, The Georgia Review and Transition Magazine. He’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
“After School Hours,”which first appeared in Transition Magazine,is a coming-of-age story of the speaker, whose name we never learn, and his Nigerian immigrant community in the Washington, D.C., area. In deft prose, Ibegwam paints the immigrant community with its class differences, the aspiration of immigrant parents and the stunted lives of their children, with an ending as funny as it is heartbreaking.
Being a Chautauqua Janus Prize finalist, Ibegwam said, “is a thrill, but to have this story chosen by Rion Amilcar Scott has filled me with joyful hope.” Quoting late actress Rue McClanahan, Ibegwam said that every kick is a boost. “Rejections have been kicking me around, so many kicks, but the morning I got the email about the Chautauqua Janus Prize remains an absolute boost for me to keep on. A spur even.” For him to become a writer was not a choice, but “the thing I felt I had to do, the most natural progression for a curious reader.”
Sony Ton-Aime, Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts, praised Ibegwam’s ability to convey the most complex things with simplicity.
“Here, in Ibegwam’s masterful prose, a nod or the simple gesture of pointing at someone can signify class dynamism, or the distance between the immigrant parent and her child,” Ton-Aime said, describing ‘After School Hours’ as a story that refuses categorization. “It is, on its face, a coming-of-age story, but one like in real life we are only aware of after the fact. It is also the typical ‘children of immigrant’ story, except that its main point is to disprove the belief that there is a typical immigrant story. The same struggles assail us all. ‘After School Hours’ will not only make you cry, laugh, and think, but will linger with you for years.”
Ton-Aime said that he was grateful to Scott, this year’s guest judge, “during a record-breaking year for the prize in term of submissions and nominations. We had, in my opinion, the strongest group of finalists of date and that has made Rion’s decision a difficult one, but I could not be happier with this choice.”
Scott called the voice in ‘After School Hours’ hypnotic, one that makes you “almost forget that you are reading a story.” He called the story “a tale of how innocence becomes lost before we even know we are losing it. In fact, the loss of innocence is itself innocent and the consequences always far outweigh the offense. On top of all that, this is simply a beautiful story. I did not want to stop reading.”
Scott is the author of the story collection The World Doesn’t Require You (Norton/Liveright, 2019). His debut story collection, Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky, 2016), was awarded the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His work has been in publications such as The New Yorker, The Kenyon Review, Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020 and Crab Orchard Review, among others.
First awarded in 2018, the Chautauqua Janus Prize celebrates one emerging writer’s single work of short fiction or nonfiction for daring formal and aesthetic innovations that upset and reorder literary conventions, historical narratives and readers’ imaginations. Named for Janus, the Roman god who looks to both the past and the future, the prize honors writing with a command of craft that renovates our understandings of both. The prize is funded by a generous donation from Barbara and Twig Branch.
Details on the Chautauqua Janus Prize are available online at chq.org/janus. Eligible short prose that is either unpublished or published after Jan. 31, 2021, will be accepted as submissions for the 2022 prize beginning this fall.
ABOUT CHAUTAUQUA LITERARY ARTS
With a history steeped in the literary arts, Chautauqua Institution is the home of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, founded in 1878, which honors at least nine outstanding books of fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry with community discussions and author presentations every summer. Further literary arts programs at Chautauqua include the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival, which convenes writers each June in workshops, panels, and other conversations that draw fruitful and urgent connections between the personal, the political and the craft of writing, as well as the summer-long workshops, craft lectures and readings from some of the very best author-educators in North America at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center.
ABOUT CHAUTAUQUA INSTITUTION
Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer — and year-round through the CHQ Assembly online platforms — with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. As a community, we celebrate, encourage and study the arts and treat them as integral to all of learning, and we convene the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue.
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