• Nigeria Prize for Literature 2016
  • The Republic of Consciousness Prize 2017
  • ​Betty Trask Prize 2017
  • 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction


Etisalat Prize for Literature 2016​


“[John] has produced a thoughtful, nuanced first novel, employing a style that is as unadorned as it is unflinching . . . His restraint in handling difficult material is just one of his many gifts . . . Born on a Tuesday brings home the reality of what is happening in northern Nigeria with a power the news reports of Boko Haram’s atrocities can’t adequately project. Elnathan John is a writer to watch.”—Fiammetta Rocco, The New York Times Book Review

“A nuanced first novel illuminates the rise of radical Islam in northern Nigeria.”— The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

“[…] Elnathan John has penned a coming of age novel worthy of Twain. At times tragic, at times humorous, Born on a Tuesday is the story of those who find the courage to transcend violence even when born to its confines.”— Elliot Ackerman, author of Green on Blue

“This powerful and gut-wrenching book is an unflinching look at the brutality wrought on the life of innocents by those vying for even small amounts of power.”—Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books, Bryn Mawr, PA

 “Mesmerizing . . . [Dantala’s] journey from a lost boy to a position of remarkable authority in his mosque in Sokoto, Nigeria is powerfully moving and rich in period-specific detail  . . . This compelling debut novel, set during the time of Boko Haram uprising, is at once frightening and horrific yet also authentic and compassionate. Masterful.”– Jenny Lyons, The Vermont Bookshop

“With brave, unflinching candor expressed through spare,unadorned prose, Elnathan John considers the rise of Islamic extremism in Nigeria... Anyone seeking to peer beyond the media’s portrayals of Boko Haram must read this book, not because it offers a hopeful account but because it offers a human one.” —  Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go


Dantala lives in Bayan Layi and studies in a Sufi school, far away from home. By chance he starts to follow gang leader Banda, a nominal Muslim. Dantala is thrust into a world with fluid rules and casual violence. In the bloody aftermath of the elections he runs away and ends up living in a mosque.  With a simple and practical approach to life, as he teaches himself English, Dantala slowly embraces the Salafism preached by his new benefactor, Sheikh Jamal.

He falls in love with Sheikh’s beguiling daughter, Aisha, and tries to woo her without breaking the rules. All the while, Sheikh struggles to deal with growing jihadist extremism within his own ranks.

Narrated in Dantala’s raw yet inquisitive voice, this debut novel explores brotherhood, religious fundamentalism, and loss against the  backdrop of one of the most turbulent periods in contemporary Northern Nigeria.​

Order Nigerian edition from Cassava Republic Press  HERE 

Order North American edition from Grove Atlantic  HERE

Order UK edition from Cassava Republic UK HERE



Upcoming dates

JUNE 7, 2017

Humboldt University,

Grimm Center

Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 1-3, 10117 Berlin


JULY 1, 2017 (Hosting novelist Jude Dibia)

Buchhandlung Moritzplatz im Aufbau Haus

Prinzenstraße 85, 10969 Berlin



September 12, 2017

(Presentation and reading of German edition of Born on a Tuesday)

internationales literaturfestival berlin