Petina Gappah

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Petina Gappah
Born Zimbabwe
Occupation Legal counsel
Language English
Nationality Zimbabwean
Alma mater University of Zimbabwe
University of Cambridge
University of Graz
Notable works An Elegy for Easterly
Notable awards Guardian First Book Award
Children 1 son

Petina Gappah (born 1971) is a Zimbabwean writer. She writes in English, though she also draws on Shona, her first language.[1]

Gappah's first book, An Elegy for Easterly, a story collection, was shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the richest prize for the short story form.[2] The book has been described as "a collection of stories about every layer of Zimbabwean culture: from the educated and the elite to the quirky, the completely mad and the children running in the street."[3] The book was published by Faber and Faber in April 2009 in the United Kingdom and in June 2009 in the United States. It won the Guardian First Book Award in 2009, at which time she spoke of her objection to being labeled by her publisher (and subsequently Amazon) as "the voice of Zimbabwe"; she commented in an interview: "'It's very troubling to me because writing of a place is not the same as writing for a place.... If I write about Zimbabwe, it's not the same as writing for Zimbabwe or for Zimbabweans.'"[4]

Gappah has law degrees from the University of Zimbabwe, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Graz. In 2010 she moved back to Harare, Zimbabwe, where she was working on her first novel. According to her interview on BBC Radio 4 (05/04/2012) she has now completed that novel, The Book of Memory (Faber, 2015).[5] The fictional testament of an imprisoned woman on death row, hoping for a presidential reprieve,[6] it was described by Maya Jaggi in The Guardian as "a powerful story of innocent lives destroyed by family secrets and sexual jealousy, prejudice and unacknowledged kinship",[7] and by Anita Sethi in The Observer as "a moving novel about memory that unfolds into one about forgiveness, and a passionate paean to the powers of language".[8]


  1. ^ Williams, Susan (2009-06-01). "An Elegy for Easterly, by Petina Gappah - Reviews, Books". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  2. ^ "FOC Award". 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  3. ^ "Author's Short Stories Offer Peek Into Zimbabwe". NPR. 2009-06-25. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  4. ^ Stephen Moss, "Petina Gappah: 'I don't see myself as an African writer'", Guardian, 4 December 2009.
  5. ^ "It's official, I have moved back to Zimbabwe!", Gappah in a blog posting, 18 October 2010.
  6. ^ Sarah Gilmartin, "Review: The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah", The Irish Times, 3 October 2015.
  7. ^ Maya Jaggi, "The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah review – a fictional testament from death row", The Guardian, 19 September 2015.
  8. ^ Anita Sethi, "The Book of Memory review – a vivid life story from death row", The Observer, 16 August 2015.

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