Irenosen Okojie

Irenosen Okojie headshot

Irenosen Okojie is a Nigerian-British writer. She is the winner of the 2020 AKO Caine Prize For Fiction for her story, “Grace Jones.” Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Observer, the Guardian, the BBC and the Huffington Post amongst other publications. Her short stories have appeared internationally in publications including Salt’s Best British Short Stories 2017, Kwani? and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction. She was named at the London Short Story Festival by Booker Prize winning author Ben Okri OBE as a dynamic writing talent to watch and featured in the Evening Standard Magazine as one of London’s exciting new authors. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular, published by Jacaranda Books was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Saboteur Awards and nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her collection of stories Nudibranch which includes her AKO Caine Prize winning “Grace Jones” is published by Dialogue Books.

From “Grace Jones”

Once the stray parts of a singed scene had found their way into the bedroom, onyx edges gleaming and the figures without memories had lost their molten heads to the coming morning, and she’d pressed her face against the space under the doorway crying, reaching for some untouched handful of earth as sustenance, the agency called, Hassan more specifically. She’d narrowed down the thing she planned to do that day to three options, stark, cold and clinical, on a creased receipt for a disco-light hued Roland Mouret jacket she’d worn only once. But the phone rang, shrill, invasive, demanding. Still on the floor, the wood cold against her skin, she crawled to the receiver tentatively, as if her limbs were tethered to a thread on the earth’s equator, the thread bending and collapsing into the different stages of her life. She contemplated the ways she could delay each inevitable outcome on the receipt. She could swallow it, wait for its disintegration in her stomach, acid eroding the words into nothing. She could shit it out. Could you shit out paper? That would particularly encapsulate what it was: ugly. Or she could simply misplace it in the flat somewhere. Not outside. Definitely not outside. It would be gone forever then. She’d have to go through options again, add new ones, whittle it down. That process had left her brain frazzled overnight, her heart leaking through the bedroom keyhole, making a sucking sound as her hands turned to wax. The receipt would have to be misplaced indoors. That would give her the option of attempting to stretch the boundaries of time despite an internal wound the shape of a turret. In her mind, the draughtsman was God. He had placed the turret inside her chest. Earlier, he’d drawn her in various angles, electric blue lines delivering degrees of shock from the same incident. Each time she got up. Each time she felt the weight of the turret tumbling in the ether.

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