An internationally-known author, broadcaster, editor and literary critic, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey ’88 grew up in Zimbabwe and now lives in England and has become renowned especially for her work in Anglophone African literature.
Allfrey is an editor-at-large for Canongate, and former deputy editor of Granta magazine and editor-at-large for Granta and Portobello Books. She has previously served as an editor for Jonathan Cape/Random House and Penguin Press. She currently sits on the selection panel for the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Fellowship and as a judge for the 2016 Dublin International Literary Award. Allfrey has served as a judge for prestigious literary awards such as the Man Booker Prize, the David Cohen Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the Caine Prize for African Writing.
In recognition of her significant contributions to the publishing industry, Allfrey was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Prince Charles in 2011, which is one of the highest cultural honors in England.
“Ellah’s work is marked by her intelligence, honesty and integrity,” said Jonathan Taylor CBE, chair of the Booker Prize Foundation and of the Caine Prize for African Writing. “Her work has a strong international focus and interest, particularly in relation to Africa where she is closely involved in the recognition and reward of creative literary talent and with the development of relevant skills.”
Allfrey’s work in journalism has appeared in publications including the Independent, the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Observer, and she has contributed to NPR’s book pages and “All Things Considered.”
“One doesn’t just happen upon a belief that work must be meaningful, that our endeavors must be towards the well-being and betterment of our fellow human beings. It is something that is taught. And this college, is one of the places I learned that lesson.”
— Ellah Wakatama Allfrey ’88
In 2014, Allfrey edited the anthology “Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara,” a project which selected 39 Sub-Saharan African writers under the age of 40 who were deemed the most promising in the development of new literature. This May, Allfrey edited another collection of creative nonfiction by African writers called “Safe House: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction.”
Allfrey returned to her alma mater this fall to teach two guest courses – one on contemporary African literature and another on editing and publishing – through a pilot program called the Global Intercultural Scholar Program. She will also present the 2016 SA Yoder Lecture in October.
In an essay written for the Journal for the Center of Mennonite Writing in 2012, Allfrey wrote, “I cannot say that Goshen changed me profoundly — but what it did provide is perhaps more valuable. There I found the space, the safety and the acceptance to become myself, and there I found the challenge to make that self one whose life would have meaning.”