Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize

The Aidoo-Snyder book prize is awarded by the Women's Caucus of the African Studies Association for an outstanding book that prioritizes African women's experiences. Named in honor of Ama Ata Aidoo, the celebrated Ghanaian novelist and short-story writer, and Margaret Snyder the founding Director of UNIFEM, this $500 prize seeks to acknowledge the excellence of contemporary scholarship being produced by women about African women. In alternate years, the prize is awarded for the best scholarly book, or for the best creative work.

The 2022 Book Prize committee is happy to announce that we have selected Fabienne Kanor’s HUMUS (University of Virginia Press, 2020) as the winner of this year’s competition. This novel was chosen for its focus on women’s priorities, the trajectories taken by fourteen enslaved women. Kanor’s narrative revolves round her reading of Louis Mosnier, the captain of the slave ship, Le Soleil,’s logbook, dated 1774, where fourteen unnamed African women (whose bodies were objectified), jumped overboard to escape their enslavement. However, only six of them survived while the rest of them died from shark attacks and bites. The author’s usage of interconnected stories works quite well and provides a fast moving picture of the lives of the women from the time of their captivity, in Ghana, on the slave ship to Haiti and their subsequent lives.

Kanor’s narrative revolves around her reading of a slave ship captain's logbook, dated 1774, where fourteen unnamed African women jumped overboard to escape their enslavement with six of them surviving.  Kanor's usage of interconnected stories provides a fast-moving picture of the women's lives from the time of their captivity, in Ghana, on the slave ship to Haiti, and their subsequent diasporic worlds. As the story is told from the perspective of the women, the novel elicits emotional connections for the reader:  “The story is not a story,” Kanor writes, “but a poem” (16). The story hence is a “re-memory,” to borrow Toni Morrison’s concept, a “recollecting and remembering as in reassembling the members of the body, the family, the population of the past.” The story is also a retracing of the lives of the women who were sold into slavery, thereby establishing their place in transatlantic slave narratives. Kanor acknowledges the cultural specificity and diversity of each slave on board the ship, and through these rich characters, Kanor explores the complexities of identity and challenges the lack of agency that has trailed so many slave narratives. In Humus, slaves are given agency to act, to be seen and recognized as people, despite the dismissive cant of the captain as nothing more than products in his logbook. Humus makes the pain of historical slave women visible in history. Read more here.

The Committee also recognizes the work of two additional authors, Véronique Tadjo’s In the Company of Men (Other Press, 2021), as the 2022 First Runner Up and Tjawangwa Dema’s An/Other Pastoral (No Bindings Ltd., 2022), as the 2022 Second Runner Up.

The 2023 Aidoo-Snyder scholarly book prize will be given for the best scholarly book written by a woman (or women) that prioritizes African women’s experiences. To this end, the committee invites nominations from publishers or authors. Self-published books are not eligible, and entries may only be submitted for consideration once. The prize is open to authors who have published books in English and English translation in the two years preceding the award year. The books must significantly deal with Africa (including Cape Verde, and the Islands off the West Coast of Africa; Madagascar; and the Indian Ocean Islands of the East African Coast). 

The application form for the 2023 round will be posted in March 2023.