Don’t Write Alone | Interviews

A Conversation with ‘Best Debut Short Stories 2021’ Author Khaddafina Mbabazi

“I come from a culture that deifies the established and gatekeeps everything on their behalf. So it makes me glad that there are in fact spaces in the world where professional youth is celebrated.”

Best Debut Short Stories 2021: The PEN America Dau Prize are open now

Virginia Quarterly ReviewThe Johannesburg Review of Books Vox Populi.

Where did you find the idea for this story?

How long did it take you to write this story?

“Transit” interrogates the intersection of race and class in an airport. How does this transitory setting full of strangers lend itself to the premise of the story and Thandi meeting Flannery?


Around the midpoint of “Transit,” the narration switches to Flannery’s point of view during an uncomfortable scene where she goes through Thandi’s belongings. What made you decide to switch to perspectives, and was it difficult to write from Flannery’s perspective? Why or why not?

How has the Robert J. Dau Prize affected you?

What are you working on now?

Finally, where do you discover new writing?

In the pre-pandemic past, I’d go to bookstores and meander—and whatever found itself in my hands found itself in my hands. These days, I mostly rely on recommendations from friends, as well as writers I follow on Instagram and Twitter. Plus, a bunch of literary journals.