Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo, Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike and Nora Nneka are winners of the inaugural Isele Prizes 2022.
The Isele Prize celebrates the best of short stories, poetry, and essays by writers published in the Ukamaka Olisakwe founded Isele Magazine. The prizes are split into three categories – short stories, poetry, and essays, and each category is judged by a panel of two judges.
The Year of the Sun by Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo won the Isele Short Story Prize. The judges said her exceptional short story explores the difficult conversations we have about how we love, our culture and traditions, and the relationship we have with our history. “Her language pulses and her structure are controlled. This is a masterfully crafted story, which immerses you in the setting as she builds this world with mathematical precision, such that a reader, even if they aren’t familiar with the period and the culture, sees themselves in her characters. This story stays with you,” the judges said.
Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike’s there’s more and Two Poems won the Isele Poetry Prize. The judges said Umezurike’s poem travels around the world, gathering stories about people who search for new beginnings despite the dangers that lurk in the deserts and in the seas, dangers that nip dreams in the bud, but which our seekers must brave for their sanity, for a moment away from the despair they leave behind.
Nora Nneka with her Sense of Touch won the Isele Nonfiction Prize. The judges said Nneka’s deeply moving essay explores the relationship between a daughter and her mother, family trauma, grief, and how these experiences shape a woman’s narrative arc—her relationship with her body, her journey through pregnancy, and the joy that comes with embracing these stories that come together to define who we are and our relationship with our community.