Walking on Cowrie Shells (eBook)


Nana Nkweti
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Paperback £10.99 £3.00 £5.00 £15.00

Paperback available for purchase on 5 May 2022

Customers in the US and Europe (excluding the UK, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Ireland and Malta) can shop here. 

SKU: 006850022010

Walking on Cowrie Shells focuses on the lives of hyphenated-Americans with a multi-cultural heritage in the United States and Africa. The book spans genres – literary realism, horror, mystery, YA, science fiction – and features complex, fully-embodied characters: tongue-tied linguistic anthropologists, comic book enthusiasts and even water goddesses. The author hopes her stories entertain readers while also offering them a counterpoint to prevalent “heart of darkness” writing that too often depicts a singular “African” experience plagued by locusts, hunger, and tribal in-fighting.

The collection has garnered outstanding advance praise from, among others, Yaa Gyasi, Carmen Maria Machado and Karen Russell, as well as exceptional trade press.

‘These genre-leaping stories are funny and heartbreaking and wonderfully ferocious; it’s been ages since I’ve read sentences with this much verve and snap. Walking on Cowrie Shells is a delightful, rollicking debut.’
Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

‘Nana Nkweti’s exuberant collection is full of stories that weave together love and friendship, horror and comedy, all with great deftness. The characters, straddling continents and cultures, carving out a place for themselves, remind me of home. A wonderful debut.’
Yaa Gyasi, author of Transcendent Kingdom and Homegoing

‘This feels like a taster of an author who could craft novel after novel, each pivoting to a new realm . . . it’s a debut collection that sings from the page, story after story.’
The Skinny

‘A vivacious collection with sentences that sizzle on the page. . . Nkweti’s book is sharp and gorgeous.’
Women’s Review of Books

‘Nkweti’s beautiful and immersive debut collection challenges hackneyed depictions of a monolithic Africa through an array of dynamic stories that reflect the heterogeneity of Africans and the Cameroonian diaspora. . . Whether Nkweti is writing about water goddesses, zombies, or aspiring graphic novelists, she reveals and celebrates the rich inner lives of those who do not fit neatly into social and cultural categories. But the author’s prose shines the brightest; Nkweti’s sentences soar, enthralling the reader through their every twist and turn, and often ending with a wry punch. . . This is a groundbreaking and vital work.’
Publishers Weekly

‘Explosive prose and imaginative plots characterize this debut collection… Nkweti’s stories offer a wonderfully immersive experience. . . Deliciously disorienting at times and always energizing, [Nkweti’s] style calls to mind code-switching as well as the rich polyvocality of America. . . Boisterous and high-spirited debut stories by a talented new writer.’
Kirkus Reviews

Walking on Cowrie Shells is a virtuosic, kaleidoscopic debut, one that rejects the paint-by-number templates of storytelling to refresh our sense of what fiction can be and do. Nana Nkweti’s supersonic prose breaks the sound barrier as she crisscrosses genres and cultures and continents, from a zombie outbreak in Cameroon to a künstlerroman set at Comic-Con. Satirical, playful, keenly critical of the racist stereotypes and received narratives that limit women’s lives, these polyphonic tales are a joy to read. Nkweti’s ambitious, amphibious tales capture the diverse and complex experience of ‘hyphenated Americans’ who, like Nkweti, have deep roots in Africa and America. It would be impossible to overstate how much I love this book, and its author.’
Karen Russell, author of Orange World

‘Nana Nkweti trills and enchants. This totally vibrant collection spins a wonder of love and horror. Each fresh universe is more captivating than the next. Always human, Walking on Cowrie Shells searches through the real and into the hyperreal. Nkweti’s words are dazzlingly energetic, world-ranging and straight-up brilliant.’
Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark

‘What an intoxicating book! Magical, funny, inventive and joyous, Nkweti’s tales remind us what storytelling can be.’
Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less

‘Let us thank whoever granted Nana Nkweti her all-access-pass to the human soul, for with it she is able to gain entry into the lives of women and men, children and adults, the damaged and the damaging, the human and the not-quite, all with equal clarity and conviction. Walking on Cowrie Shells is a collection of verve, audacity, and consummate control. That it is her first book makes it all the more astonishing.’
Kevin Brockmeier

‘Dazzling stories that are as diverse as they are vibrant. . . Nkweti displays her virtuosity and elasticity through her prose. With the ease of a master, she shifts between points of view, between American and African slang, and between the straightforward and the avant-garde. Each story offers not only a different subject but also a different approach, a new plan of narrative attack to conquer each emotional landscape. The result is an intense, sweeping and altogether stunning reading experience.’
Bookpage, starred review

Gurnaik Johal for the Guardian, 30 June 2022: What we’re reading: writers and readers on the books they enjoyed in June

Heather McDaid for The Skinny, 5 May 2022: ‘A debut collection that sings from the page, story after story’

The New York Times, 9 July 2021: Nana Nkweti’s Tales of Cameroonians at Home and in America

The New Yorker , 7 June 2021: Briefly Noted 

Martha Anne Toll for NPR, 7 June 2021: These Stories Dance Deftly Between America And Cameroon

Oprah Daily , 7 June 2021: 20 Best New Books of June 2021

Kerri Arsenault for Literary Hub, 3 June 2021: 10 Short Story Collections to Read This Summer

Matthew Jackson for Bookpage, 3 June 2021: Starred Review

Debutiful, 1 June 2021: 10 Debut Books to Read This June 

Afreada, 28 May 2021: Exerpt: The Statistician’s Wife

Ainehi Edoro for Brittle Paper, 26 May 2021: Nana Nkweti’s Walking on Cowrie Shells Offers Diverse and Complex Story-worlds

Publisher’s Weekly, 13 April 2021: Starred Review

Kirkus Reviews, 10 March 2021: Starred Review

The Millions, 11 January 2021: Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2021 Book Preview

The Rumpus, 11 December 2020: What to read when 2021 is just around the corner

US edition

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