Yewande Omotoso

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Yewande Omotoso
ResidenceSouth Africa
OccupationNovelist, architect and designer
Notable work
Bom Boy (2011)
The Woman Next Door (2016)

Yewande Omotoso (born 1980) is a South African-based novelist, architect and designer, who was born in Barbados and grew up in Nigeria.[1] She is the daughter of Nigerian writer Kole Omotoso, and the sister of film maker Akin Omotoso.[2] She currently lives in Johannesburg.[3] Her two published novels have earned her considerable attention, including winning the South African Literary Award for First-Time Published Author, being shortlisted for the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize, the M-Net Literary Awards 2012,[4] and the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature, and being longlisted for the 2017 Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.[5]

Early years and education[edit]

Yewande Omotoso was born in Bridgetown, Barbados;[6] and within a year of her birth went with her Barbadian mother, Nigerian father and two older brothers to Nigeria. She grew up in Ile-Ife, Osun State, until 1992, when the family moved to South Africa[7][8] after her father took an took an academic appointment with the University of the Western Cape.[9] She has said, "Regardless of how many years I’ve lived in South Africa I think of myself as a product of three nations: Barbados, Nigeria and South Africa. Nigeria forms a very strong part of my sense of myself, my identity",[7] and in a 2015 interview she said: "Identity is complex. I love being a Nigerian, I love belonging to that identity even if my belonging is complex, due to my multiple identities and migratory life experience."[10]

She studied architecture at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and after working for some years as an architect went on to obtain a master's degree in Creative Writing at the same university.[8]

Writing career[edit]

Omotoso's debut novel, Bom Boy, was published in 2011 by Modjaji Books in Cape Town. It won the 2012 South African Literary Award for First-Time Published Author, was shortlisted for the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize, and for the M-Net Literary Awards 2012.[4] Bom Boy was also runner-up for the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature,[11] following which Omotoso took up a 2014 Etisalat Fellowship at the University of East Anglia[10] that was given up on her behalf by the 2013 prizewinner NoViolet Bulawayo.[12]

Omotoso was a 2013 Norman Mailer Fellow, and was the recipient of a Miles Morland Scholarship in 2014.[13][14][15]

Like Bom Boy, her second novel, The Woman Next Door (Chatto and Windus, 2016)[16] was also positively reviewed, with Publishers Weekly referring to it as "this charming, touching, occasionally radiant tale of two prickly octogenarians: two women, one black and one white, neighbors who discover after 20 years of exchanging digs and insults that they might help each other.... Omotoso captures the changing racial relations since the 1950s, as well as the immigrant experience through personal detail and small psychological insights into mixed emotions, the artist’s eye, and widow’s remorse. Hers is a fresh voice as adept at evoking the peace of walking up a kopje as the cruelty of South Africa’s past."[17] The Irish Independent described The Woman Next Door as "a finely observed account of female prejudice, redemption and that often elusive commodity - friendship."[18] It was longlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction in 2017,[19] and shortlisted for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award.[20]

Omotoso has contributed stories and poetry to various publications, among them Konch, Noir Nation, Speaking for the Generation: Contemporary Stories from Africa, Contemporary African Women’s Poetry,[8] Kalahari Review, The Moth Literary Journal, One World Two and the 2012 Caine Prize anthology.[21]

She is a frequent participant in literary festivals including the Aké Arts and Book Festival,[22] the Edinburgh International Book Festival[23] and the PEN American World Voices Festival.[24]


  • Bom Boy, Modjaji Books, 2011. ISBN 978-1-920397-35-7[25]
  • The Woman Next Door, Chatto and Windus, 2016.[26]


  1. ^ Yewande Omotoso biography at African Books Collective.
  2. ^ Shanaaz Prince, "Akin Omotoso: From actor to filmmaker", PressReader, 23 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Your Favorite Writers are Mentoring! | Yewande Omotoso", Writivism, 30 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Yewande Omotoso", This is Africa.
  5. ^ "Announcing the 2017 Longlist...", Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.
  6. ^ "A Q&A with Yewande Omotoso", Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
  7. ^ a b Evelyn Osagie, "‘I think of myself as a product of three nations’", The Nation (Nigeria), 19 March 2014.
  8. ^ a b c "Yewande Omotoso (Nigeria/South Africa)", Time of the Writer, Centre for Creative Writing, University of Kwazulu-Natal, 2012.
  9. ^ Africa Film Festival. "Akin Omotoso bio". New York.
  10. ^ a b "The Etisalat Prize brought recognition – Yewande Omotoso", Sabi News, 16 August 2015.
  11. ^ "Random facts about Yewande Omotoso", Etisalat Prize for Literature, 3 January 2017.
  12. ^ James Murua, "Noviolet Bulwayo gives up Etisalat fellowship to Yewande Omotoso", James Murua's Literature Blog, 16 April 2014.
  13. ^ "2014 Morland Scholarship Winners", Miles Morland Foundation.
  14. ^ "Yewande Omotoso wins Morland Writing Scholarship", University of East Anglia, 27 November 2014.
  15. ^ "Yewande Omotoso new novel sneak peaked", James Murua's Literature Blog, 12 April 2016.
  16. ^ "'Next Door' Neighbors Gradually Learn To Get Along In Post-Apartheid Cape Town". NPR. February 12, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  17. ^ "The Woman Next Door", Publishers Weekly, 12 May 2016.
  18. ^ Deirdre Conroy, "Fiction: The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso", Irish Independent, 27 June 2016.
  19. ^ "Baileys prize 2017 longlist – in pictures". The Guardian. March 8, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  20. ^ "The 2018 shortlist is announced, 5th April", International Dublin Literary Award.
  21. ^ Jennifer Emelife, "My Writing Day (and other tips): Yewande Omotoso", Praxis Magazine, 10 February 2017.
  22. ^ "Yewande Omotoso" at Ake Festival, 2016.
  23. ^ 2016 Edinburgh International Book Festival Brochure.
  24. ^ "Yewande Omotoso", PEN American World Voices Festival.
  25. ^ ''Bom Boy at Modjaji Books.
  26. ^ The Woman Next Door at Penguin Random House.

External links[edit]