Chinelo Okparanta

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Chinelo Okparanta
Chinelo Okparanta 2015 LOC.jpg
Born1981 (age 39–40)
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
OccupationNovelist, short-story writer
NationalityNigeria; United States
Alma materPennsylvania State University (Schreyer Honors College)
Rutgers University
Iowa Writers' Workshop
Notable worksHappiness, Like Water (2013);
Under the Udala Trees (2015)
Official website

Chinelo Okparanta (born 1981) is a Nigerian-American novelist and short-story writer.[1] She was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where she was raised[2] until the age of 10, when she emigrated to the United States with her family.[3]

Early life[edit]

Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and at the age of 10 migrated with her family to the US. She was educated at Pennsylvania State University (Schreyer Honors College), Rutgers University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop.[2]


Okparanta has published short stories in publications including Granta,[4] The New Yorker, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, Conjunctions, Subtropics and The Coffin Factory, and has held fellowships or visiting professorships at The University of Iowa, Colgate University, Purdue University, City College of New York, and Columbia University.[5] She is Associate Professor of English & Creative Writing (Fiction) at Bucknell University, where she is also Margaret Hollinshead Ley Professor in Poetry & Creative Writing.[2] Her essays have appeared in AGNI, The Story Prize blog, and the University of Iowa International Writing Program blog.[6]

Her debut short-story collection, Happiness, Like Water (Granta Books and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), was longlisted for the 2013 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award,[7] a finalist for the 2014 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award,[8] and won the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction.[9] She has been nominated for a United States Artists Fellowship[10] and was a finalist for the 2014 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative in Literature.[11] Other honors include the 2013 Society of Midland Authors Award (finalist),[12] the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing (finalist),.[13]

Her story "Fairness" was 2014 included in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, among 20 short stories of this year.[14]

Happiness, Like Water was an Editors' Choice for The New York Times Book Review on September 20, 2013.[15] The collection was also listed as one of The Guardian's Best African Fiction of 2013,[16] and in December 2014 was announced as being a finalist for the Nigerian Etisalat Prize for Literature.[17] In 2015, she became a faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University.[18][19]

Her first novel, Under the Udala Trees, was published in 2015. The New York Times reviewer called Okparanta "a graceful and precise writer",[20] and The Guardian (UK) describes the book as "a gripping novel about a young gay woman's coming of age in Nigeria during the Nigerian civil war..." in which "...Okparanta deftly negotiates a balance between a love story and a war story."[21]

Under the Udala Trees was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice[22] as well as a nominee for the 2015 Kirkus Reviews Prize in Fiction.[23] One of NPR's "Best Books of 2015", it also made the Buzzfeed, The Wall Street Journal, The Millions, Bustle, Shelf Awareness, and Publishers Lunch "Best of"[24] and "Most Anticipated" lists, among others. It was long-listed for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize,[25] nominated for the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction,[26] nominated for the 2016 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in Fiction,[27] a finalist for the 2016 Publishing Triangle Literary Awards (the Ferro-Grumley Award),[28] a semi-finalist for the 2016 VCU Cabell First Novelist Award,[29] long-listed for the 2016 Chautauqua Prize,[citation needed] and won the 2016 Lambda Literary Award in the General Lesbian Fiction category.[30]

Under the Udala Trees also won the 2016 Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Award in Fiction[31] and was a 2017 Amelia Bloomer Project Selection of the American Library Association.[32]

In 2017, Okparanta won the Publishing Triangle's 2016 inaugural Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award.[33] Under the Udala Trees was also shortlisted for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award.[34]

Pulse Nigeria named Under the Udala Trees one of its 10 Outstanding Nigerian Books for 2015.[35] YNaija listed it as one of its Ten Most Notable Books of 2015.[36] Afridiaspora listed it as one of the Best African Novels of 2015.[37]

In April 2017, Okparanta was selected by Granta for their once in a decade Best of Young American Novelists list.[38][39]



  1. ^ Mythili Rao, "Chinelo Okparanta: Champion of the Stifled". The Daily Beast, August 19, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Rae Winkelstein-Duveneck, "Religion, The Bible, and Personal Morality: An Interview with Chinelo Okparanta", The Iowa Review, March 19, 2013.
  3. ^ Ligaya Mishan, "How She Left: ‘Happiness, Like Water,’ by Chinelo Okparanta" (review), The New York Times Book Review, September 15, 2013.
  4. ^ "Chinelo Okparanta". Granta. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  5. ^ "New Voices in Fiction Reading by Chinelo Okparanta | UChicago Arts | The University of Chicago". Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  6. ^ Munllonch, Montse Domínguez i (July 11, 2019). "Books to read and see. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta.⁠". misitio. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  7. ^ Magazine, Mosaic (July 22, 2014). "Chinelo Okparanta: Interview". Mosaic Literary Magazine. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  8. ^ Services, UH Libraries Web. "Poetry and Prose February 20 | University of Houston Libraries". Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  9. ^ Ron Charles, "Lambda Awards honor best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books", Washington Post, June 2, 2014.
  10. ^ "Chinelo Okparanta". PEN America. March 7, 2014. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  11. ^ "Lambda Literary Leadership Archives | Lambda Literary". Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  12. ^ "Celebrated young author to speak at PSU". pittstate. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  13. ^ Keira Brown, "The Missing Women of the Caine Prize", For Books' Sake, July 16, 2013
  14. ^ source
  15. ^ Mishan, Ligaya (September 13, 2013). "How She Left". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  16. ^ Afritorial; Network, part of the Guardian Africa (December 17, 2013). "Best African fiction of 2013". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  17. ^ "Who wins Etisalat Prize for Literature 2014?". Vanguard News. March 11, 2015. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  18. ^ "Candidates announced for Etisalat Prize for Literature", The Nation, December 14, 2014.
  19. ^ "Great Artistry Brought to Bear: Chinelo Okparanta is short-listed for the Etisalat Prize as she joins the faculty of Southern New Hampshire University's MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction program", GlobeNewswire, January 28, 2015.
  20. ^ Carol Anshaw, "‘Under the Udala Trees,’ by Chinelo Okparanta" (Sunday Book ), The New York Times, October 23, 2015.
  21. ^ Anjali Enjeti, "Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta review – love in the time of Biafra", The Guardian, September 24, 2015.
  22. ^ Under the Udala Trees. September 22, 2015. ISBN 978-0-544-00336-1.
  23. ^ Yorker, The New. "The 2018 National Book Awards Longlist: Fiction". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  24. ^ Publishers Lunch, Favorite Books of 2015, From the News Editor
  25. ^ "a book review by Elayne Clift: Under the Udala Trees: A Novel". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  26. ^ "Africa's Young Literary Stars". The Single Story Foundation. August 15, 2016. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  27. ^ "Hurston/Wright Foundation | Hurston/Wright Foundation Announces 2016 Legacy Awards". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  28. ^ "The Ferro–Grumley Awards". The Publishing Triangle. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  29. ^ "2016 News | First Novelist Semifinalists 2016 | VCU Libraries". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  30. ^ "Award Winners | Oakland Public Library". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  31. ^ "Clarke's Books". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  32. ^ "2018 Permafrost Book Prize in Fiction – Permafrost Magazine". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  33. ^ York, Carnegie Corporation of New. "Chinelo Okparanta". Carnegie Corporation of New York. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  34. ^ "Under the Udala Trees – International DUBLIN Literary Award". Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  35. ^ "10 outstanding Nigerian books for this year", Pulse, December 16, 2015.
  36. ^ Wilfred Okichie, "#YNAIJA2015REVIEW: THE FISHERMEN, BLACKASS, UNDER THE UDALA TREE… THE 10 MOST NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2015", YNaija, December 13, 2015.
  37. ^ Tolu Daniel, "The Afridiaspora List – The Best African Novels of 2015", Afridiaspora, December 22, 2015.
  39. ^ "Granta’s list of the best young American novelists", The Guardian, April 26, 2017.

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