Okwiri Oduor was born in Nairobi, Kenya. Her short story My Father’s Head won the 2014 Caine Prize for African Writing as well as the 2013 Short Story Day Africa’s Feast, Famine and Potluck story contest. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Her short story, Mbiu Dash, is forthcoming from Granta. Okwiri was a 2014 fellow at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. In 2015, she was a fellow at the Art OMI Ledig House in New York, as well as a Lanan Center visiting writer at the Georgetown University in Washington DC. In 2017, she was a visiting writer for Stimmen Afrikas in Cologne and Düsseldorf. Okwiri has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut novel, Things They Lost, is forthcoming from Scribner. She currently lives in Germany. During her MMF Scholarship year, Okwiri will work on a novel titled Temerity.
19-year-old Temerity was brought up at the edge of the river by her grandmother, Jentrix the apothecary. When not at the schoolhouse, Temerity spent her girlhood foraging in the woods, searching for periwinkle and dandelion and blister beetles for her grandmother; or in their front room, helping to turn footling breech babies the right way down pregnant women’s swollen bellies; or in the kitchen, making decoctions and tonics to heal preeclampsia or to ward off wayward wraiths. Temerity grew up practicing her grandmother Jentrix’s religion. They have a shrine near their cottage, where they honour a deity called Our Lady of Mud.
Jentrix has taught Temerity everything that she knows: How to make sacrifices at the Earth Mother’s altar. How to pull babies out of groaning women. How to coax the driest patch of earth to split itself open and bear fruit. How to tell the truth always, even if it might send you to the gallows. How to love each being and each thing with voracity and heroism. How to be a priestess, midwife and traditional healer. Yet a stranger now stumbles upon their midst, unbidden, a great nuisance to all in the town, and a frightful blow to the life that Jentrix has meticulously knitted and Temerity has joyfully lived. The stranger claims to know whom Temerity is, whom she really is. Against her grandmother’s wishes, Temerity nurtures the stranger just like Jentrix taught her to nurture dirty, broken-legged kittens. And little by little, the stranger reveals to her a dark, ghastly secret.
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