ADDIS ABABA – Meron Hadero has become the first Ethiopian author to win the prestigious AKO Caine Prize for African Writing.
Her winning short story, ‘The Street Sweep’, is about an Ethiopian boy called Getu, who has to navigate the fraught power dynamics of NGOs and foreign aid in Addis Ababa.
It impressed the judges who found it “utterly without self-pity” and said it “turns the lens” on the usual clichés.
“The Street Sweep is superbly crafted, the language fluid, and weighted with colour and memorable symbolism. Optimism, trust and betrayal ride side by side; but ultimately, this is a story about the redeeming power of hope: “Hope is the greatest asset a man can have,” said Goretti Kyomuhendo, the Chair of the AKO Caine Prize Judging Panel.
“What stood out for the judges was the story’s subtle, but powerful ending, and how everything comes brilliantly together in a clever twist, that sees Getu transform; and the reader pushed to question the thin line between ‘making it’, and the necessary subjugation of the soul,” he added.
Meron usually writes a lot about the migrant experience and she studies displacement in her writing in a way that’s especially striking now in the light of currents events in Ethiopia.
The winning work is a tour de force of subtlety putting in perspective the impact of foreign aid in African countries.
“I’m absolutely thrilled, I’m in shock – being shortlisted in itself was a huge honor,” she told the BBC.
Meron will take home 13,000 US Dollar in prize money. The author was born in Ethiopia and raised in the US by parents who are both medical doctors.
About Meron Hadero
Meron is an Ethiopian-American writer who was born in Addis Ababa and came to the U.S. via Germany as a young child. She is the winner of the 2020 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.
In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for her story ‘The Wall’.
Her short stories have been published in ZYZZYVA, Ploughshares, Addis Ababa Noir, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, New England Review, Best American Short Stories, among others.
Her writing has also been in The New York Times Book Review, The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives, and will appear in the forthcoming anthology Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us.
Meron, an alum of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she worked as a research analyst for the President of Global Development, holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, a JD from Yale, and a BA in history from Princeton with a certificate in American Studies.