On Black Sisters Street
A Novel

By Chika Unigwe

Chika Unigwe is the winner of the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature for On Black Sisters Street.

“Boiling with a sly, generous humor … On Black Sisters Street marks the arrival of a latter-day Thackeray, an Afro-Belgian writer who probes with passion, grace and comic verve the underbelly of our globalized new world economy.”

New York Times Book Review

“Unigwe’s gripping tale chronicles the lives of four African women working as prostitutes in Antwerp’s red-light district.… As Unigwe tells her characters’ stories in interweaving narratives and time lines, the women embody depths of fear and displacement, as well as the will to survive and prosper.”


“This spellbinding novel … combines a storyteller’s narrative flair with a reporter’s eye for grim, gritty details about the sex industry.… Unigwe crafts her characters’ voices with crystalline prose and compassion, in a revelatory work as tough, humane and unsentimental as its heroines.”

Caryn James, More Magazine

“In her English-language debut, the Nigerian-born Unigwe convincingly exposes an unfamiliar world without sentimentality.”

Kirkus Reviews

On Black Sisters Street tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe—and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives. Each night, Sisi, Ama, Efe, and Joyce stand in the windows of Antwerp’s red-light district, promising to make men’s desires come true—if only for half an hour. They offer their bodies to strangers but their hearts to no one, each focused on earning enough to get herself free, to send money home, or to save up for her own future. Drawn together by Sisi’s murder, the women must choose between their secrets and their safety. This first paperback edition of On Black Sisters Street celebrates the U.S. publication debut of Chika Unigwe, a brilliant new writer and a standout voice among contemporary African authors.

Chika Unigwe was born in Nigeria and now lives in Belgium with her husband and four children. She was a 2008 UNESCO-Aschberg fellow and a 2009 Rockefeller Foundation fellow. She holds a PhD from the University of Leiden. She is the recipient of several awards for her writing, including the 2012 Nigerian Prize for Literature for On Black Sisters Street, and first prize in the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition. In 2004 she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. Her first novel, De Feniks, was published in Dutch in 2005.



Retail price: $18.95, S.
Release date: Jan. 2012
272 pages · 6.125 × 9¼ in.
Rights:World (exclusive in USA, and Philippines) except South America, and British Commonwealth

Additional Praise for On Black Sisters Street

“Unigwe has a talent for capturing the dashed dreams of young women who are stronger than they imagine.… (T)he women’s personal stories are wrenchingly memorable.”

Library Journal

“Powerful … The author’s raw voice, unflinching eye for detail, facility for creating a complex narrative, and affection for her characters make this a must read.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review