Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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9/23/11: Namwali Serpell ’01

Born and partly raised in Zambia, Namwali Serpell ’01 will travel there to research a novel—with help from a chic Manhattanite.

Serpell, who also has a Harvard PhD and teaches English at the University of California, Berkeley, won a $25,000 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award to support work on her novel Breaking. She’ll use the award, presented on September 22, for in-country research on what she calls “an epic set over the course of the last century about three Zambian families—black, white, brown—caught in a cycle of desire and retribution.”

Jaffe came to fame with a 1958 debut novel, The Best of Everything, which “told the melodramatic story of four nubile, cashmere-sweatered career girls torn between storybook romance and cutthroat corporate Manhattan,” in the words of the New York Times’s 2005 obituary. Her foundation gives awards each year to “six women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers.”

Or, as one blogger wryly put it: “The Rona Jaffe Foundation: Encouraging women to forsake family responsibilities for wanton careers in letters since 1995.”

Filed under books, international, milestones, alumnae
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