Franco-Congolese poet and novelist Alain Mabanckou won the 2018 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for fiction for “Black Moses,” a novel that follows the journey of an orphan from Loango through a revolution in the Congo to Pointe-Noire and the home of a madam with “ten girls, each more beautiful than the last.”
“It all began when I was a teenager, and came to wonder about the name I’d been given by Papa Moupelo, the priest at the orphanage in Loango: Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko,” the novel opens. “A long name, which in Lingala means ‘Thanks be to God, the black Moses is born on the earth of our ancestors.’ ”
The judges called the book “a funny, efficiently-rendered picaresque tale” that “superbly traces the hero’s psychic collapse.” Mabanckou, who was born in what is now the Republic of Congo and is now a professor of literature at UCLA, writes about the “the perils of tyrannical government” in a setting that “is vivid and engrossing.”
...Nonfiction finalists were “Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education” by Noliwe Rooks and “The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South” by Michael W. Twitty.
Read the article in The Washington Post.