After months of reading the brilliant stories, poems, and essays published here at Isele Magazine, we revealed the category longlists in February and the category shortlists in March. Now, we are so delighted to announce winners of the inaugural Isele Prizes.

Meet them:

Jennifer Dickinson Wins the Isele Short Story Prize for “Pink Flower”

It is a rare gift when we come across a story that feels so fully realized, so engaging, so polished. The dialogue in “Pink Flower” is sharp and flows effortlessly, producing the perfect balance of tension and light, bringing the reader so deeply into the characters that we become the characters. Jennifer Dickinson establishes an authority and relatability within her writing that feels like she’s paying homage to all women from all walks of life. There is an enigmatic atmosphere within the story that is laden with subtext—painful and yet dripping with dry humor. 

“Pink Flower” is a brilliant representation of the female gaze, picking at the scabs of vulnerability and cultural expectations—revealing the strength, wisdom, and healing that women can find as we grow older—when we free ourselves from social constructs and take off our armor and open our hearts to friendship with other women.

Read “Pink Flower.”

Ashia Ajani Wins the Isele Poetry Prize for “Two Poems”

In a world that commodifies and appropriates Blackness whilst concurrently seeking to eradicate Black people, Ashia Ajani’s intentional and unapologetic centering of Blackness in her poems is an act of defiance. This is evident in both “grief spinning” and “a black hair study in commensalism, i.e. grease and glory in the marshlands of my scalp” where Blackness plays a crucial role in the storytelling, lyricism, and imagery of the poems, from the seamless integration of Lucille Clifton’s work in “grief spinning” to the vivid exploration of Black hair care in “a black hair study in commensalism, i.e. grease and glory in the marshlands of my scalp”. 

Ashia’s poems are marvelous pieces of writing, and Isele Magazine is grateful for the opportunity to share their work with the world.

Read Ajani’s “Two Poems.”

Chinonso Nzeh Wins the Isele Nonfiction Prize Winner for “The Slipping Away”

With “The Slipping Away”, Chinonso Nzeh has drawn a family portrait in which a son pre-mourns the potential passing of his much older parents. This story is tender and urgent and contemplative, and one of the most wrenching frames depicts our narrator observing his parents—their love for each other, their love for their children, their conversations about dying. Nzeh also zooms in on the self, questioning his own journey, who he is outside of this tight-knit family, and the most shattering of all questions: how to survive the ultimate passing of his parents. Strictly speaking, Nzeh’s essay is a daunting question on pre-grieving. Here’s a son so devoted to the parents that he is already asking hard questions, interrogating his own inadequacies, his fears, all the while preparing himself for the inevitable. 

This memoir is about being parented and loved and sheltered. It is also about wading through life without one’s anchors. Nzeh highlights deeply vulnerable scenes, puts these moments under scrutiny, and reflects on them, ultimately creating a powerful tapestry that offers readers a new way of writing parent-child relationships.


Read “The Slipping Away.”

Congratulations to the winners!

See here for more about the prizes.