Zambian author Namwali Serpell has won the Caine Prize for African Writing 2015.
CNN  — 

Zambian author Namwali Serpell has won the 2015 Caine Prize for African writing for her short story “The Sack” – the first time a Zambian author has scooped the prestigious award.

Described as “truly luminous” by Chair of the judges Zoe Wicomb, the story explores the fraught relationship between two men in a love triangle with a dead woman.

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the talented 34-year-old.

1. She’s sharing her prize money

In accepting the award on Monday at Oxford University’s Bodleian library, Serpell announced that she will be sharing her £10,000 ($15,400) prize money with the four other shortlisted writers.

“It felt like a way to make a statement about the way that these literary prizes work,” she told CNN. “They don’t always support writers, but rather use them to drum up some excitement. I don’t think writing is a competitive sport.”

Her entry was chosen over stories by two Nigerians and two South Africans; Nigerian writer and former Caine prize winner Segun Afolabi’s “The Folded Leaf,” Elnathan John’s story “Flying,” South African FT Kola’s “A Party for the Colonel” and Masande Ntshanga’s “Space.”

“I tremendously respect and admire the writing of the other candidates, so it was very easy to do,” she explained. “I don’t think writers like to compete with each other for money.”

Shortlisted writers Masande Ntshanga, FT Kola and Elnathan John, Caine prize winner Namwali Serpell and shortlisted winner from 2005, Segun Afolabi

2. She has been shortlisted for the Caine prize before

Serpell’s first published story, “Muzungu,” was shortlisted for the Caine prize in 2010, but winning it for “The Sack” has given her particular satisfaction.

“‘Muzungu’ was classic realism, this one is a bit more surreal and experimental,” she explained. “I’m really pleased that the Caine Prize is honoring something so strange.”

The two men in the story have known each other all their lives, but are torn apart by the death of their loved one. Frantic dreams plunge one of the characters into paranoia.

Serpell said the story’s motivation is best described by novelist Vladimir Nabokov. “He said, ‘I don’t wish to move minds or even to touch hearts, I want the artist-reader to feel that little sob at the base of their spine’.”

3. Born in Lusaka, she has lived in the U.S. over half her life

Serpell’s father is a British-Zambian professor of Psychology at the University of Zambia; her mother is a distinguished economist who has worked for the U.N. She moved to Baltimore aged nine, going on to study literature at Yale and Havard Universities. She has lived in California since 2008, where she is an associate professor of English at the University of Berkeley.

“I go home to Zambia quite frequently, more so now that I can afford the plane tickets! Things are slower there in a way that doesn’t feel bogged down, it just feels comfortable.”

“You can do two or three things in a day, and that’s enough. It’s very different from the U.S.”

4. She’s a dedicated bookworm

Her whole family shares her love of books. “My mother was often found as a child underneath the bed with a candle. By the time it was me it was a flashlight, reading way past my bedtime.”

Moving to America in 1989 enhanced this passion. “It can be quite lonely when you move as a child to an entirely new place, where your sense of self is not quite as secure. I really immersed myself in books.”

She lists her favorite African writers as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Bessie Head, Amos Tutuola and Wole Soyinka. “I always tell people when they ask how to become a writer: just read more.”

5. She’s a feminist

“I’m absolutely a feminist, born and bred,” emphasized Serpell, who was awarded the Rona Jaffe prize for emerging female writers in 2011.

“I think the short story is especially available to women. I’m not saying we should only write short stories, but there’s something about its brevity that is amenable to womens’ lives.

“Women are not always given a room of their own or long spates of their time on their own in which they can write.”

Quiz: How well do you know African literature?