Namwali Serpell was born in Lusaka. Her first novel, The Old Drift (Hogarth, 2019), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book prize for fiction “that confronts racism and explores diversity,” the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, the Grand Prix des Associations Littéraires Prize for Belles-Lettres, and the L.A. Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. It was short listed for the L.A. Times’ Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction and long listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the Nommo Award for Best African Speculative Novel, and the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown. It was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of the Year, and a book of the year by New York Times Critics, The Atlantic, NPR, and BuzzFeed.
She is a co-recipient of a 2020 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction (with Yiyun Li). Her short story, “Take It,” was a finalist for the 2020 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award. In 2014, she was chosen as one of the Africa 39, a Hay Festival project to identify the most promising African writers under 40. In 2011, she received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Her first published short story, “Muzungu,” was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and short listed for the 2010 Caine Prize; she went on to win the 2015 Caine Prize for “The Sack.”
She is a Professor of English at Harvard University. She was Assistant, then Associate, Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley from 2008-2020. Her work of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, was published in 2014 by Harvard University Press. Her book of essays, Stranger Faces (Transit Books, 2020), was long listed for a Believer Book Award for Nonfiction and a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Her book, American Psycho Analysis, is forthcoming with Columbia University Press.