Petina Gappah’s ‘ , ’ has won the 2020 Chautauqua Prize. As author of the winning book, Gappah receives $7,500, and will be presented with the Prize — and give a public reading — during a celebratory event at a date to be determined as part of Chautauqua Institution’s online assembly season this summer.
A powerful novel of exploration and adventure in 19th-century Africa, Out of Darkness, Shining Light is a captivating story of those who carried explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone’s body across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England. “Rather than repeating the usual legend of the Livingstone expedition, Gappah reinvents the story to reveal the tyranny and complexity of colonial power,” one reader wrote, and the author’s “inspired treatment and graceful prose breathes life into her riveting account.” Another called the work a “Homer-esque, cross-cultural mini-epic; … the odyssey itself is a pleasure in prose.”
Gappah said she was “delighted” to accept the 2020 Chautauqua Prize:
“My primary identity is that of a reader, so it is wonderful to receive an award that is given to books that offer a ‘richly rewarding reading experience,’” Gappah said. “I am grateful that through the power of this award, Livingstone’s companions will now travel to readers who might otherwise not have heard of them. Thank you so much to Chautauqua Institution for this honor, but most of all, thank you for your abiding belief in the power of literature.”
Out of Darkness, Shining Light has also been named a Best Book of 2019 by NPR and was on the list of Kirkus Review’s Best Historical Fiction of 2019. It also earned “Starred” reviews in both Kirkus and Library Journal. Most recently, Out of Darkness, Shining Light was a finalist for the NAACP Image Awards.