[The JRB Daily] ‘A delightfully queer treatment of everyday life’—Jarred Thompson wins 2020 Afritondo Short Story Prize for ‘Good Help is Hard to Find’

South African writer Jarred Thompson has been announced as the winner of the 2020 Afritondo Short Story prize for his story ‘Good Help is Hard to Find’.

Thompson wins $1000 prize money (about R18,200).

The four other shortlisted authors were Philani Nyoni (Zimbabwe), Kojo Obeng-Andoh (Ghana), Davina Kawuma (Uganda) and Hannah Onoguwe (Nigeria).

The prize, which is open to African and black minority writers, received 421 entries from across nineteen countries this year. The theme of the competition was ‘love’, and an anthology of the longlisted stories is expected by summer 2020.

‘I’m so grateful for my art to be acknowledged in this way,’ Thompson said. ‘Winning the Afritondo Short Story Prize, a prize for African writers and African minorities, means a lot to me because I am dedicated to be telling authentic African stories, which don’t just relate to local experiences, but to the human experience through a South African lens.’

Watch a video of Thompson discussing his winning story here:

The winner was chosen by a panel of three judges comprising South African writer and author of Milk Fever Megan Ross (chair), Nigerian editor Kelechi Njoku and Kenyan writer Gloria Mwaniga.

‘Good Help is Hard to Find’ tells the story of a house help, Pamela, and her employer Mrs De Villiers, who is struggling with the affection she feels for another woman.

Commenting on the winning story, the panel said:

‘“Good Help is Hard to Find” is a wry, subversive take on suburbia and its secrecies, made all the more powerful by a tight narrative, strong voice and sensitive characterisation. What the judges loved about the story was its unhurried style and the manner in which the author made a story so lush in event feel lean. The author skilfully amplified the comfort of routine, trust, and laughter, offering a delightfully queer treatment of everyday life, peppered with humour and warmth. The close observations of the little details of domestic life, and the relationships herein, were a joy to read.’

Thompson’s writing has twice been featured in The JRB, in our May 2018 issue and our 2019 December Fiction Issue.

Thompson graduated from Alabama State University with a degree in English and completed his Masters in English at the University of Johannesburg last year. His short story ‘Changing I’s’ was longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and his poetry and fiction have been shortlisted for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award and Anthology (2019) and placed second in the Fitzgerald Museum Short Story Contest, a national contest for college students in the United States.

Afritondo is a United Kingdom-based media and publishing platform that aims to improve diversity in publishing by offering Africans and black minority writers an accessible platform for publishing their stories and sharing them with a wider audience.

Co-editor of Afritondo Allwell Uwazuruike said:

‘Our aim for the competition was to connect with African and black minority writers from across the globe to tell their own authentic stories. We chose love as a theme because we wanted something that was both ordinary and special. We wanted a theme that would resonate with most people and we wanted to gauge the various perspectives of love from across African and black communities. We are happy at the positive response and can’t wait to share the anthology with our readers.’

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