Finalist Feature: The Mourning Bird

Category: Adult Fiction

Description:When eleven-year-old Chimuka and her younger brother Ali find themselves orphaned in the 1990s, it’s clear that their seemingly ordinary Zambian family is brimming with secrets: from HIV/AIDS to infidelity to suicide. Faced with the difficult choice of living with their abusive extended family or slithering into the dark underbelly of Lusaka’s streets, Chimuka and Ali escape and become street kids. Against the backdrop of a failed military coup, election riots and a declining economy, Chimuka and Ali are raised by drugs, crime and police brutality. As a teenager, Chimuka is caught between prostitution and the remnants of the fragile stability from before her parents’ death. The Mourning Bird is not just Chimuka’s story, it’s a national portrait of Zambia in an era of strife. With lively and unflinching prose, Kalimamukwento paints a country’s burden, shame and silence that, when juxtaposed with Chimuka’s triumph, forms an empowering debut novel.

Read it now!

Author: Mubanga is a multi-award-winning novelist, short story writer, poet, essayist and filmmaker. Her first novel, The Mourning Bird (Jacana Media) won the 2019 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award, making her the first and only Zambian to win the prize since its inception in 2004. She won the Kalemba Short Story Prize 2019 and the Tell Your Own Story Awards Zambia 2020. Her short stories have appeared on numerous shortlists including the Bristol Short Story Prize (2019), the Nobrow Short Story Prize (2019) and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (2022).

Her work has also appeared on Netflix, and in Blackbird Books, Doek! Overland, Killens Review of Arts & Letters, The Advocates for Human Rights, The Red Rock Review, The Menteur Literary & Arts Magazine and others. Her poems and short stories have been translated and published in Italian by Menelique.

She has an LLB from Cavendish University Zambia and an LLM from the University of Minnesota. Mubanga practised law in Zambia until 2019. She is now an MFA candidate at Hamline University in Minnesota where she lives with her husband and their two children.

Mubanga’s Local Library: Ramsey County Library

Winners will be announced at the 2022 Minnesota Library Association Annual Conference.