Lesley Nneka Arimah

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Lesley Nneka Arimah
Born1983 (age 35–36)
London, England
GenreShort Story
Notable awards2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa, 2017 O. Henry Prize, 2017 Kirkus Prize, 2019 Caine Prize

Lesley Nneka Arimah is a Nigerian writer, and winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa,[1] the 2017 O. Henry Prize,[2] the 2017 Kirkus Prize,[3] and the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing.[4] She has been described as "a skillful storyteller who can render entire relationships with just a few lines of dialogue"[5] and "a new voice with certain staying power."[6]


Arimah was born in London in 1983. She grew up in both Nigeria and the U.K., and moved to the U.S. in her early teens. She is currently at work on a novel. In 2015, her story "Light" won the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. In 2016, 2017, and 2019, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize. She won the 2019 edition with her story "Skinned".[7]

Her work has appeared The New Yorker, Granta, Harper's, Per Contra, and other publications.[8]

In September 2017, she was named as one of the fiction writers honored by the National Book Foundation, called "Five Under 35"[9]

Debut book[edit]

In April 2017, her debut collection of short stories was published by Riverhead Books and Tinder Press (UK). It is titled What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky.[8] It was republished in Nigeria, by Farafina Books, in November 2017. It won the Kirkus Prize for Fiction,[10] the Minnesota Book Award for Fiction[11] and the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award. In January 2018, it was shortlisted for the 9mobile Prize for Literature.[12]

The book centres "on female protagonists exposed to a cruel world that pushes them to take certain steps to fit in, or make them realize, they just might not fit in,"[13] offering "a humanizing portrait of both the Nigerian citizen and first generation young female immigrant", showcasing "their flaws, their desires, their victories, and their attempts at carving out a place in a country whose customs and values diverge from that of their heritage.[14]

The collection "explores women’s dispossession from many angles, including the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters and the complicated dynamics of female friendship."[15] Her writing, The Atlantic says, "conveys respect for the people who claw their way through relentlessly difficult lives."[16] NPR calls it "It's a truly wonderful debut by a young author who seems certain to have a very bright literary future ahead of her."[17]

Personal life[edit]

She currently lives in Minnesota, United States.


  • What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky, New York: Riverhead, 2017. ISBN 9780735211025, OCLC 998228832


  1. ^ "Jonathan Tel wins 2015 Short Story Prize". The Commonwealth. September 9, 2015. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  2. ^ "The O. Henry Prize Author Spotlight". Random House. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  3. ^ Williams, Suzanne (November 2, 2017). "2017 Kirkus Prize Winners Announced". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  4. ^ Killin, James (July 8, 2019). "Lesley Nneka Arimah wins 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing". Caine Prize. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  5. ^ Thomas Kennedy, Jackie (2017-04-01). "REVIEW: 'What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky,' by Lesley Nneka Arimah". StarTribune. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  6. ^ "WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY by Lesley Nneka Arimah". Kirkus Reviews. 2017-01-23.
  7. ^ Editor (July 9, 2019). "Nigerian writer Lesley Nneka Arimah wins 2019 Caine Prize". The Guardian. Nigeria. Retrieved 2019-07-09.
  8. ^ a b Mogami, Gaamangwe Joy (2017-07-03). "#CainePrize2017 | On Motherhood, Class and Fabulist Fiction | Interview with Lesley Nneka Arimah". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  9. ^ Hertzel, Laurie (2017-09-25). "Minnesota writer named one of National Book Foundation's 'Five Under 35'". StarTribune. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  10. ^ Staff, MPR News. "Minnesota author Lesley Nneka Arimah wins Kirkus Prize for Fiction". Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  11. ^ Hertzel, Laurie (April 23, 2018). "Novelist Lesley Nneka Arimah, poet Bao Phi, cartoonist Steve Sack win Minnesota Book Awards". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  12. ^ Editor (2018-02-11). "Two Nigerians, South African vie for 9mobile prize for literature 2018". The Guardian. Nigeria. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
  13. ^ OkadaBooks (December 14, 2017). "#LiterallyWhatsHot: 12 Awesome Stories with Beautifully Crafted Narratives is What You Get in Lesley Arimah's 'What It Means when a Man Falls from the Sky'". BellaNaija. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  14. ^ Von Klemperer, Liz (2017-03-27). "Lesley Nneka Arimah's Characters Muscle Their Way through Girlhood". The Rumpus.net. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  15. ^ Orr, K. J. (2017-09-02). "What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah review – short stories". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  16. ^ Weiss-Meyer, Amy (April 11, 2017). "The Powerful Pessimism of 'What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  17. ^ Schaub, Michael (April 5, 2017). "'What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky' Is Defiantly, Electrically Original". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-12-16.

External links[edit]