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2013 CAINE PRIZE WINNNER, TOPE FOLARIN

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“Being a writer means honouring the essence of who I am.”

Tope Folarin

Oluwabusayo Temitope Folarin was born in 1982 in Ogden, Utah (U.S.A.) to a Yoruba father and an Igbo mother. The eldest of four younger siblings (three brothers and a sister), his family moved from Ogden, Utah to Grand Prairie, Texas when he was 14. Though he completed his undergraduate program at the prestigious all male black higher institution –Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia; he spent a year at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and a semester in South Africa studying abroad at the University of Cape Town. He also worked for an NGO where he interviewed Parliament members about including anti-child prostitution laws within the South African constitution and aided in the development of HIV/AIDS training clinics for rural South Africans. 2004, before heading to the University of Oxford for his Masters program, he was a Galbraith Scholar dealing with issues of inequality and social policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He finished his studies in African Studies at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. tope 2 After a few years, Folarin worked as a spokesman for Google in London; followed by a low-level position on the Obama campaign; then a period of unemployment. As a result of this – Folarin moved to Washington D.C. (in 2008), where he connected with poets and writers including poet and professor, E. Ethelbert Miller. These connections led Folarin to submit his first published short story, “Miracle”, for the Caine Prize. Monday, July 8th, 2013, Tope Folarin emerged as the first writer based outside Africa to win the £10,000 Caine Prize for African Writing. Miracle, which is set in Texas in an evangelical Nigerian church where the congregation has gathered to witness the healing powers of a blind pastor-prophet, first published in Transition 109 (2012); was written because he – wanted to tell an honest story about faith. But, Folarin’s first attempt at writing was about … spiders which he won a local competition for (when he was 9). As a result of this, he became more ambitious and started writing a book titled “The Knight’s Journey.” Unfortunately, he didn’t finish the book. He began to write ‘Miracle’ while he was still at Oxford (2006). Miracle, today, has become part of a larger project, a chapter from the yet published book titled The Proximity of Distance, a collection of stories that chart the growth of a single character.   Tope Folarin Folarin, is an assistant in Washington D.C. to a member of the board for the entity that oversees the audits of public companies – Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and he serves on the board of the Hurston/Wright Foundation – whose mission is to discover, educate, mentor, and develop African American writers.   By: Olusola Agbaje

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