My African Reading List
I’ve always prided myself in being African Literature savvy but that delusion was swiftly set straight when I embarked on a project to identify countries I am yet to read and come up with a reading list from each of the 54 African countries. It dawned on me that I had barely scratched the surface. Coming up with this list was a journey of discovery for me and not just about books but a discovery of Africa as a big, beautiful and diverse continent.
My first criteria for picking a book was that the author had to be African. Born in and of Africa or of African descent in the diaspora. I have always held the view that a people are best placed to tell their own stories. So much gets lost when an outsider looking in attempts to dissect a people and tell their story based on sporadic interactions. There is always the risk of misrepresentation because the understanding of the people is from an outsider perspective.
So you can trust there will be no 'Out of Africa – Karen Blixen' type of books in this list. I want to believe this is an authentic African reading list – some books are old having been published many years ago and some are recently published but the choice is diverse and the books also speak to the diversity of Africa- our languages, our values, our struggles, our weaknesses and strength, the coming of our nations and our way of life.
My second criteria was the book had to be published in English. I didn’t think this would be a challenge but this actually proved to be my biggest challenge. I discovered that Africa is largely Francophone (how did I not know this?), and there were so many untranslated books in French. I did however manage to find at least one translated book from each of the countries.
I hope you find some gems to add to your TBRs. I’d love your views on this list and particularly if you have read or plan to read any of these books.
Side note: This is definitely not an African Reading Bible. This is a list of books that I personally want to read. Most of them are yet to be acquired and I realise that that might be another whole project on its own so if you have read any of the books on my list or can point me to where I can get them or even better, if you want to gift me any of the books, I’d be more than happy to accept your gift. Don’t be shy.
Countries have been grouped in alphabetical order
A B C D E G K L M N R S T U Z
What the Day Owes the Night – Yasmina Khadra
Younes is still an impressionable young boy when his family loses everything and is forced to move to the Algerian slum of Jenane Jato.His father is an overly proud man who refuses help from his wealthy brother, Mahi. But life in the city is difficult and he grudgingly agrees to let Younes live with Mahi to give him a chance at life.
Mahi, a pharmacist, is married to a Christian woman, Germaine, and they have no children. Both long for a child of their own. Younes is the answer to their prayers and they welcome him into their home with open arms. Germaine renames him Jonas and so life begins in the affluent European town of Rio Salado.
Despite the overwhelming love of Germaine and Mahi and a unique friendship between him and three other boys in Rio Salado, Younes never really fits in.But life is good and the four friends form an enduring bond that nothing will shake- not even the Algerian war.
But when Emilie arrives in the town an epic love story is set in motion that will challenge the boys' friendship.Suddenly Younes is forced to confront the burden of choosing between two worlds - Algerian or European; loyal or selfish; surrendering to fate or taking control of his destiny.
Set against the Algerian war of independence, this story is more than just a love story. It examines with powerful compassion and empathy the rifts between lovers, family and friends who love one country but in so many different ways.
The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris – Leila Marouane
A witty story about Mohamed, a 40-year-old Muslim in France, who is trying to leave his mother and live the life he has only been able to dream of.
Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade – Assia Djebar
Assia Djebar intertwines the history of her native Algeria with episodes from the life of a young girl in a story stretching from the French conquest in 1830 to the War of Liberation of the 1950s.
The girl, growing up in the old Roman coastal town of Cherchel, sees her life in contrast to that of a neighbouring French family, and yearns for more than law and tradition allow her to experience. Headstrong and passionate, she escapes from the cloistered life of her family to join her brother in the maquis' fight against French domination. Djebar's exceptional descriptive powers bring to life the experiences of girls and women caught up in the dual struggle for independence - their own and Algeria's.
A General Theory of Oblivion – Jose Eduardo Agualusa
On the eve of Angolan independence an agoraphobic woman named Ludo bricks herself into her apartment for 30 years, living off vegetables and the pigeons she lures in with diamonds, burning her furniture and books to stay alive and writing her story on the apartment’s walls.
Almost as if we’re eavesdropping, the history of Angola unfolds through the stories of those she sees from her window. As the country goes through various political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers.
The Return of the Water Spirit – Pepetela
Set in Angola in the late 1980's, a time of war, and when the Marxist-orientated ruling elite became engulfed by corruption, nepotism and rampant capitalism.
Three centuries earlier, a hideous crime occurred, the beheading of a slave who had had inappropriate relations with his Master's daughter. Now, in the very same Kinaxixi Square in the city of Luanda buildings are falling down one by one baffling the country's engineers. Many describe this mysterious process as 'Luanda Syndrome, God's punishment on a degenerate society.
Drawing on the essence of African mythology which had all but been obliterated by history, could this be explained by the return of a Water Spirit (the 'kianda')? The novel focuses on the interplay between these two forces-the forces of old and new. Just like faith can move mountains, the spirit of the water can move cities.
This book is a scathing critique of Angola's ruling elite, for abandoning their socialist principles in favour of rampant capitalism.
Rainy Season – Jose Eduardo Agualusa
A journalist is trying to find out what happened to Lidia, who disappeared in Luanda in 1992 - a point in time when the civil war flared up again with unprecedented ferocity. The story tells of the disappointment of the two protagonists, which represents the disappointment of a whole nation.
The Stories we Tell Each Other – Rashidah Ismaili (Short Story)
Set mostly in West Africa, Stories We Tell Each Other brings together a series of pieces about people coming up against injustice, discrimination and the limits that society puts on them because of their gender, race or age. There is the young girl set on going to university in the face of her male relatives’ scorn for the idea of educating women, the teenager who lives in fear of being forced to undergo female genital mutilation, and the boy who travels to join the People’s Liberation Army in South Africa.
A Question of Power – Bessie Head
"Your mother was insane. If you're not careful you'll get insane just like your mother. Your mother was a white woman. They had to lock her up, as she was having a child by the stable boy who was a native." It is never clear to Elizabeth whether the mission school principal's cruel revelation of her origins is at the bottom of her mental breakdown. She has left South Africa with her son and is living in the village of Motabeng, the place of sand, in Botswana where there are no street lights at night. In the darkness of this country where people turn and look at her with vague curiosity as an outsider she establishes an entirely abnormal relationship with two men. A mind-bending book which takes the reader in and out of sanity.
The Parachute Drop – Norbert Zongo
Zongo's novel The Parachute Drop is an eerily prophetic narrative foretelling many of the events that preceded his death. His novel shows how a fictional West African nation named Watinbow is "mobutuized" by a succession of tyrants, foreign advisors, and external financial agents. President Gouama, a man of demonic energy, malice, and greed, is toppled in a coup d'état and must now confront the people of Watinbow, whom he has betrayed. The Parachute Drop provides rare insight into the psychology of a corrupt African leader. For those hoping to understand the nightmare of contemporary African politics, Zongo's novel is an excellent place to begin.
Baho – Roland Rugero
When Nyamugari, an adolescent mute, attempts to ask a young woman in rural Burundi for directions to an appropriate place to relieve himself, his gestures are mistaken as premeditation for rape. To the young woman's community, his fleeing confirms his guilt, setting off a chain reaction of pursuit, mob justice, and Nyamugari's attempts at explanation. Young Burundian novelist Roland Rugero's second novel Baho!, the first Burundian novel to ever be translated into English, explores the concepts of miscommunication and justice against the backdrop of war-torn Burundi's beautiful green hillsides.
Cape Verdean Blues – Shauna Barbosa (Poetry)
Barbosa interrogates encounters and the weight of their space. Grounded in bodily experience and the phenomenology of femininity, this collection provides a sense of Cape Verdean identity. It uniquely captures the essence of “Sodade,” as it refers to the Cape Verdean American experience, and also the nostalgia and self-reflection one navigates through relationships lived, lost, and imagined. And its layers of unusual imagery and sound hold the reader in their grip.
Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue
Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.
However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.
When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice
Houseboy – Ferdinand Oyono
Toundi Ondoua, the rural African protagonist of Houseboy, encounters a world of prisms that cast beautiful but unobtainable glimmers, especially for a black youth in colonial Cameroon. Houseboy, written in the form of Toundi's captivating diary and translated from the original French, discloses his awe of the white world and a web of unpredictable experiences.
Early on, he escapes his father's angry blows by seeking asylum with his benefactor, the local European priest who meets an untimely death. Toundi then becomes "the Chief European's 'boy'--the dog of the King." Toundi's attempt to fulfill a dream of advancement and improvement opens his eyes to troubling realities. Gradually, preconceptions of the Europeans come crashing down on him as he struggles with his identity, his place in society, and the changing culture.
Your Name Shall be Tanga – Calixthe Beyala
In a prison cell two women meet, thrown together by injustice and violence. One is labelled mad, the other a counterfeiter. One is of French-Jewish origin, the other African. One is old, the other young. Yet they are both hoping for love and as prison life deteriorates, they grow closer.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR)
Daba’s Travels from Ouadda to Bangui – Makombo Bambote
Daba was born in Ouadda, in what is now the Central African Republic. His mother often told him about the terrible dry season that year, when elephants, buffaloes and antelopes stampeded through the countryside in a frenzied search for water. Even panthers stalked the bush around the village, often carrying innocent sheep. Safe near his parents' hut, Daba listened to the story time and time again. And as he grew, loved and protected, there grew in him a strength of spirit and a deep love for his native village.
But Dabawas not destined to live his life in Ouadda. When he was still a young boy, he left his beloved home on the first of a series of journeys that would lead him farther and farther away - even to France. For Daba's parents wanted him to be educated, a rare and special privilege not often enjoyed by poor village children....
The life, history and tradition of the people of the Central African Republic are described with great feeling by Bambote, for Daba's Travels is a recollection of his own childhood and youth.
(Seemingly the only available book from CAR in English. And it’s a YA/ Children’s book)
The Plagues of Friendship – Sem Miantoloum Beasnael
Njeleulem is an introvert. He values friendship. He has a high standard of ethics. He holds steadfastly to his communal beliefs. His friends mistake his integrity for cowardice and weakness. Aware that yesterday's friends have decayed into today's scoffers, he reacts with confusion and bitterness. Ngarbel, the first friend to betray him, places impediments in Njeleulem's path at every opportunity during their parallel careers. The two, once good school friends, face each other in deep hostility from their positions as top managers for powerful organizations. Njeleulem's harsh childhood shapes his personality and eventually, his ruin. Ngarbel is rude and aggressive to the core, much like his volatile father. The ending is tragic for these frenemies.
Told by Starlight in Chad – Joseph Brahim Seid
Beginning on the day Dr Idi WaMazamba discovers he has terminal cancer, the novel tells the story of one man’s struggle to free himself from the conventions, patterns and prejudices that have dogged his life. Liberated by the knowledge that his days are numbered, married Mazamba embarks on an affair with a French woman, Aubéri, and comes to look at the world around him with new eyes. Yet this fresh vision brings with it a heightened awareness of the racism, corruption and contradictions that riddle society. Appalled by the hypocrisy he encounters, Dr Mazamba hatches a plan to challenge the status quo while he still can.
Le Kafir Du Karthala (The Kafir of Karthala) – Mohamed Toihiri (Translation by Anis Memon)
Though Mazamba knows he only has a few days left to extract most out of the world, and though he is married, Mazamba "embarks on an affair with a French woman, Aubéri, and comes to look at the world around him with new eyes." He is met with a society of racism, a nation of corruption and a globe of preconceived notions. But he still undertakes the quest to "challenge the status quo while he still can."
Before the Birth of the Moon – Valentin Y Mudimbe
Set in the rebellion-torn Zaire of the 1960s, it is the story of a cynical Minister of State and his love for a beautiful prostitute, and the fluctuating balance of power in their relationship as they become enmeshed, both willingly and unwillingly, in the political intrigue and tribal loyalties that will destroy them.
How Dare he Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child – Sandra Uwiringyimana
This profoundly moving memoir is the remarkable and inspiring true story of Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tells the tale of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.
Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped.
Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.
CONGO, REPUBLIC OF
Tram 83 – Fiston Mujila
In an unnamed African city in secession, profit-seekers of all languages and nationalities mix. They have only one desire: to make a fortune by exploiting the mineral wealth of the land. Two friends — Lucien, a writer with literary ambitions, home from abroad, and his childhood friend Requiem, who dreams of taking over the seedy underworld of their hometown — gather in the most notorious nightclub in town: the Tram 83. Around them gravitate gangsters and young girls, soldiers and stowaways, profit-seeking tourists and federal agents of a non-existent State.
Tram 83 plunges the reader into a modern African gold rush as cynical as it is comic and colourfully exotic. A daring feat of narrative imagination and linguistic creativity, Tram 83 uses the rhythms of jazz to weave a tale of human relationships in a world that has become a global village.(Longlisted Man Booker Prize 2016, Winner English Pen Award).
Black Moses – Alain Mabanckou
Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses is the story of the life of a Congolese orphan named Moses. His full name is TokumisaNzambepoMoseYamoyindoAbotamiNambokayaBakoko, which means “Thanks be to God, the black Moses is born on the earth of our ancestors” in Lingala. His grandly prophetic name leads him to a destiny that’s far less linear than that of the original Moses, but just as gripping and fantastical.
Black Moses is a larger-than-life comic tale of a young man obsessed with helping the helpless in an unjust world. It is also a vital new extension of Mabanckou's extraordinary, interlinked body of work dedicated to his native Congo, and confirms his status as one of our great storytellers. (Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize)
Allah is not Obliged – Ahmadou Kourouma
When Birahima's mother dies, he leaves his native village to search for his aunt Mahan. Crossing the border into Liberia, he is seized by a rebel force and press-ganged into military service. Fighting in a chaotic civil war, he sees death, torture, amputation and madness, but somehow manages to retain his own sanity.
Aya – Marguerite Abouet
Aya tells the story of its nineteen-year-old heroine, the studious and clear-sighted Aya, her easygoing friends Adjoua and Bintou, and their meddling relatives and neighbors. It's a breezy and wryly funny account of the desire for joy and freedom, and of the simple pleasures and private troubles of everyday life in Yop City. An unpretentious and gently humorous story of an Africa we rarely see-spirited, hopeful, and resilient.
Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote – Ahmadou Kourouma
Kourouma's remarkable novel is narrated by Bingo, a West African sora - storyteller and king's fool. Over the course of five nights he tells the life story of Koyaga, President and Dictator of the Gulf Coast. Orphaned at the age of seven, Koyaga grows up to be a terrible hunter; he fights mythical beasts, and is a shape-shifter, capable of changing himself into beasts and birds. He fights in the French colonial armies, in Vietnam and Algeria, but on his return he mounts a coup and becomes ruler and dictator of the Gulf Coast. For thirty years he runs a corrupt but 'clean' state, surviving repeated assassination attempts and gaining support and investment from abroad. But when the 'First World' decides it no longer want to support dictatorships and call for democracy, he needs another ruse to maintain himself in power...
Part magic, part history, part savage satire, Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote is nothing less than a history of post-colonial Africa itself.
In the United States of Africa – Abdourahman A Waberi
In a literary reversal as deadly serious as it is wickedly satiric, this novel by the acclaimed French-speaking African writer Abdourahman A. Waberi turns the fortunes of the world upside down. On this reimagined globe a stream of sorry humanity flows from the West, from the slums of America and the squalor of Europe, to escape poverty and desperation in the prosperous United States of Africa. It is in this world that an African doctor on a humanitarian mission to France adopts a child. Now a young artist, this girl, Malaïka, travels to the troubled land of her birth in hope of finding her mother—and perhaps something of her lost self. Her search, at times funny and strange, is also deeply poignant, reminding us at every moment of the turns of fate we call truth
Transit - Abdourahman A. Waberi
Waiting at the Paris airport, two immigrants from Djibouti reveal parallel stories of war, child soldiers, arms trafficking, drugs, and hunger. Bashir is recently discharged from the army and wounded, finding himself inside the French Embassy. Harbi, whose wife, Alice, has been killed by the police, is there too--arrested earlier as a political suspect. An embassy official mistakes Bashir for Harbi's son, and as Harbi does not deny it, both will be exiled to France, Alice's home country. This brilliantly shrewd and cynical universal chronicle of war and exile, translated into English for the first time, amounts to a lyrical and reflective history of Djibouti and its tortuous politics, crippled economy, and devastated moral landscape.
Woman at Point Zero – Nawal El Saadawi
From her earliest memories, Firdaus suffered at the hands of men—first her abusive father, then her violent, much older husband, to finally her deceitful boyfriend-turned-pimp. After a lifetime of abuse, she at last takes drastic action against the males ruling her life. The Yacoubian Building – Alaa Al Aswany
All manner of flawed and fragile humanity reside in the Yacoubian Building, a once-elegant temple of Art Deco splendor now slowly decaying in the smog and bustle of downtown Cairo: a fading aristocrat and self-proclaimed "scientist of women"; a sultry, voluptuous siren; a devout young student, feeling the irresistible pull toward fundamentalism; a newspaper editor helplessly in love with a policeman; a corrupt and corpulent politician, twisting the Koran to justify his desires.
These disparate lives careen toward an explosive conclusion in Alaa Al Aswany's remarkable international bestseller. Teeming with frank sexuality and heartfelt compassion, this book is an important window on to the experience of loss and love in the Arab world.
The Innocence of the Devil – Nawal El-Saadawi
Set in an insane asylum, The Innocence of the Devil is a complex and chilling novel that recasts the relationships of God and Satan, of good and evil. Intertwining the lives of two young women as they discover their sexual and emotional powers, Saadawi weaves a dreamlike narrative that reveals how the patriarchal structures of Christianity and Islam are strikingly similar: physical violation of women is not simply a social or political phenomenon; it is a religious one as well.
Shadows of Your Black Memory – Donato Ndongo
Set during the last years of Spanish rule in Equatorial Guinea, Shadows of Your Black Memory presents the voice of a young African man reflecting on his childhood. Through the idealistic eyes of the nameless protagonist, Donato Ndongo portrays the cultural conflicts between Africa and Spain, ancestral worship competing with Catholicism, and tradition giving way to modernity. The backdrop of a nation moving toward a troubled independence parallels the young man’s internal struggle to define his own identity.
Donato Ndongo masterfully exposes the cultural fissures of his native land. “Spanish Guinea” is a heated, sensual landscape with exotic animals and trees, ancient rituals, ghosts, saints, and sinners. We come to know the narrator’s extended family, the people of his village, merchants, sorcerers, and Catholic priests; we see them critically at times, even humorously, yet always with compassion and a magical dignity. Michael Ugarte’s sensitive translation captures the spirit of the original Spanish prose and makes Ndongo’s powerful, gripping tale available to English-speaking readers for the first time
The Consequences of Love – Sulaiman Adonia
Naser is a young African immigrant who works the carwash in downtown Jeddah. The long, hot summer has arrived and his friends have left the city. Naser spends his time off sitting beneath the palm tree outside his flat, dreaming of Egyptian actresses, and keeping out of the way of the religious police
My Father’s Daughter – Hannah Pool
In 1974 Hannah Pool was adopted from an orphanage in Eritrea and brought to England by her white adoptive father. She grew up unable to imagine what it must be like to look into the eyes of a blood relative until one day a letter arrived from a brother she never knew she had. Not knowing what to do with the letter, Hannah hid it away. But she was unable to forget it, and ten years later she finally decided to track down her surviving Eritrean family and embarked upon a journey that would take her far from the comfort zone of her metropolitan lifestyle to confront the poverty and oppression of a life that could so easily have been her own.
Eswatini (Formerly Swaziland)
When the Ground is Hard – Malla Nunn
Adele Joubert loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school is going to be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn't pray and defies teachers' orders.
But as they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie's gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and Lottie learns to be a little sweeter. Together, they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. Then a boy goes missing on campus and Adele and Lottie must rely on each other to solve the mystery and maybe learn the true meaning of friendship.
Beneath the Lion’s Gaze – Maaza Mengiste
Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears – Dinaw Mengestu
Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents' jewelry to pay for passage to the United States. Now he finds himself running a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. His only companions are two fellow African immigrants who share his feelings of frustration with and bitter nostalgia for their home continent. He realizes that his life has turned out completely different and far more isolated from the one he had imagined for himself years ago.
Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.
An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others.
(I debated on whether to include this book in my list because Verghese is of Indian origin, born and raised in Ethiopia but now identifies as an American physician and author…mmhh…..the premise looks promising though so I’ll read it).
Mema – Daniel Mengara
Mema's sharp tongue and apparent barrenness makes her a target for dislike and disapproval in her village. When she finally succeeds in having four children, her husband dies in a witchdoctor's haven, followed by her daughters. Her in-laws accuse her of being a wicked witch who sacrificed her husband and children to the dark forces. In spite of this Mema's strength and courage cause her to fight for her sons and her family's rights. In this story of a practical African society her actions owe nothing to Western feminism and the theme of struggle against colonialism is left behind in favour of a struggle between new and old values. The author demonstrates that a story relating the impact of psychological and social forces on Africans can also focus mainly on conflicts within African society.
The Fury and Cries of Women – Angele Rawiri
Emilienne's active search for feminism on her own terms is tangled up with cultural expectations and taboos of motherhood, marriage, polygamy, divorce, and passion. She completes her university studies in Paris; marries a man from another ethnic group; becomes a leader in women's liberation; enjoys professional success, even earning more than her husband; and eventually takes a female lover. Yet still she remains unsatisfied. Those closest to her, and even she herself, constantly question her role as woman, wife, mother, and lover. The tragic death of her only child--her daughter Rekia--accentuates Emilienne's anguish, all the more so because of her subsequent barrenness and the pressure that she concede to her husband's taking a second wife.
In her forceful portrayal of one woman's life in Central Africa in the late 1980s, Rawiri prompts us not only to reconsider our notions of African feminism and the canon of francophone African women's writing but also to expand our awareness of the issues women face across the world today in the workforce, in the bedroom, and among family and peers.
Reading the Ceiling – Dayo Forster
Ayodele has just turned eighteen and has decided, having now reached womanhood that the time is right to lose her virginity. She's drawn up a shortlist: Reuben, the failsafe; a long-admired school friend; and Frederick Adams, the 42-year-old, soon-to-be-pot-bellied father of her best friend. What she doesn't know is that her choice of suitor will have a drastic effect on the rest of her life.
Three men.Three paths. One will send Ayodele to Europe, to university and to a very different life - but it will be a voyage strewn with heartache. Another will send her around the globe on an epic journey, transforming her beyond recognition but at the cost of an almost unbearable loss. And another will see her remain in Africa, a wife and mother caught in a polygamous marriage. Each will change her irrevocably - but which will she choose?
(This book has been on my TBR for years now! It’s about time I get to it. I love the synopsis)
Our Sister Killjoy – Ama Ata Aidoo
Out of Africa with her degree and her all-seeing eyes comes Sissie. She comes to Europe, to a land of towering mountains and low grey skies and tries to make sense of it all. What is she doing here? Why aren't the natives friendly? And what will she do when she goes back home?
Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo's brilliantly conceived prose poem is by turns bitter and gentle, and is a highly personal exploration of the conflicts between Africa and Europe, between men and women and between a complacent acceptance of the status quo and a passionate desire to reform a rotten world.
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery.
One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.
The Hundred Wells of Salaga - Ayesha Harruna Attah
Aminah lives an idyllic life until she is brutally separated from her home and forced on a journey that turns her from a daydreamer into a resilient woman. Wurche, the willful daughter of a chief, is desperate to play an important role in her father's court. These two women's lives converge as infighting among Wurche's people threatens the region, during the height of the slave trade at the end of the 19th century.
Set in pre-colonial Ghana, The Hundred Wells of Salaga is a story of courage, forgiveness, love and freedom. Through the experiences of Aminah and Wurche, it offers a remarkable view of slavery and how the scramble for Africa affected the lives of everyday people
Ghana Must Go – Taiye Selasi
Kweku Sai is dead. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, he succumbs suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of Kweku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Ghana Must Go is their story. Electric, exhilarating, beautifully crafted, Ghana Must Go is a testament to the transformative power of unconditional love, from a debut novelist of extraordinary talent.
Moving with great elegance through time and place, Ghana Must Go charts the Sais’ circuitous journey to one another. In the wake of Kweku’s death, his children gather in Ghana at their enigmatic mother’s new home. The eldest son and his wife; the mysterious, beautiful twins; the baby sister, now a young woman: each carries secrets of his own. What is revealed in their coming together is the story of how they came apart: the hearts broken, the lies told, the crimes committed in the name of love. Splintered, alone, each navigates his pain, believing that what has been lost can never be recovered—until, in Ghana, a new way forward, a new family, begins to emerge.
The Dark Child – Camara Laye
The Dark Child is a distinct and graceful memoir of Camara Laye's youth in the village of Koroussa, French Guinea. Long regarded Africa's preeminent Francophone novelist, Laye (1928-80) herein marvels over his mother's supernatural powers, his father's distinction as the village goldsmith, and his own passage into manhood, which is marked by animistic beliefs and bloody rituals of primeval origin. Eventually, he must choose between this unique place and the academic success that lures him to distant cities. More than autobiography of one boy, this is the universal story of sacred traditions struggling against the encroachment of a modern world. A passionate and deeply affecting record, The Dark Child is a classic of African literature.
The King of Kahel – Tierno Monenembo
Tierno Monenembo's The King of Kahel was originally published in France in 2008 and was the winner of the French literary prize, the prix Renaudot, which is awarded to the author of an outstanding original novel. Loosely based on the life of Olivier de Sanderval, a man who journeyed to Guinea to build an empire by conquering the hostile region of Fouta Djallon, the book exposes how Sanderval braves all dangers to build a railway that will bring modern civilization to Africa.
The Ultimate Tragedy – Abdulai Sila
The first novel to be translated into English from Guinea Bissau, The Ultimate Tragedy is a tale of love and emerging political awareness in an Africa beginning to challenge Portuguese colonial rule.
Ndani leaves her village to seek a better life in the capital, finding work as a maid for a Portuguese family. The mistress of the house, Dona Deolinda, embarks on a mission to save Ndani's soul through religious teaching, but the master of the house has less righteous intentions. Ndani is expelled from the house and drifts towards home, where she becomes the wife of a village chief. He has built a mansion and a school to flaunt his power to the local Portuguese administrator, but he abandons Ndani when he finds she's not a virgin. She eventually finds love with the school's teacher, but in tumultuous times, making a future with an educated black man involves a series of hurdles.
By turns humorous, heartrending and wise, The Ultimate Tragedy is a captivating novel that brings this little-known country to colourful, vivid life.
Dance of the Jakaranda – Peter Kimani
Set in the shadow of Kenya's independence from Great Britain, Dance of the Jakaranda reimagines the special circumstances that brought black, brown and white men together to lay the railroad that heralded the birth of the nation.
The novel traces the lives and loves of three men--preacher Richard Turnbull, the colonial administrator Ian McDonald, and Indian technician Babu Salim--whose lives intersect when they are implicated in the controversial birth of a child. Years later, when Babu's grandson Rajan--who ekes out a living by singing Babu's epic tales of the railway's construction--accidentally kisses a mysterious stranger in a dark nightclub, the encounter provides the spark to illuminate the three men's shared, murky past.
With its riveting multiracial, multicultural cast and diverse literary allusions, Dance of the Jakaranda could well be a story of globalization. Yet the novel is firmly anchored in the African oral storytelling tradition, its language a dreamy, exalted, and earthy mix that creates new thresholds of identity, providing a fresh metaphor for race in contemporary Africa.
Dragonfly Sea – Yvonne Adhiambo Owour
On the island of Pate, off the coast of Kenya, lives solitary, stubborn Ayaana and her mother, Munira. When a sailor named Muhidin, also an outsider, enters their lives, Ayaana finds something she has never had before: a father. But as Ayaana grows into adulthood, forces of nature and history begin to reshape her life and the island itself--from a taciturn visitor with a murky past to a sanctuary-seeking religious extremist, from dragonflies to a tsunami, from black-clad kidnappers to cultural emissaries from China. Ayaana ends up embarking on a dramatic ship's journey to the Far East, where she will discover friends and enemies; be seduced by the charming but unreliable scion of a powerful Turkish business family; reclaim her devotion to the sea; and come to find her own tenuous place amid a landscape of beauty and violence and surprising joy. Told with a glorious lyricism and an unerring sense of compassion, The Dragonfly Sea is a transcendent story of adventure, fraught choices, and of the inexorable need for shelter in a dangerous world.
How we Buried Puso – Morabo Morojele
How we buried Puso is a novel which deals with themes characteristic of post-colonial African literature - identity, spirituality, community, and Africanness. It examines the impact of exile on the individual and the community, as well as the related problem of alienation. The themes of colonialism and dispossession are presented through Molefe's, often rather wry, observations. The manner in which the recent history of Lesotho is narrated is a graphic take on the neglect of Empire, and the understated cynicism of the narrator's tone is extremely eloquent.
Chaka – Thomas Mafolo
Tells the classic story of the Zulu hero Chaka.
She Would be King – Wayetu Moore
She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.
The Lazarus Effect – Hawa Jande Golakai
Vee Johnson is an investigative journalist for the Cape Town magazine Urban. When she spots a photo of a familiar-looking girl at a local hospital, Vee launches an investigation, under the pretext of writing an article about missing children. Alongside her oddball assistant Chloe Bishop, Vee delves into the secrets of the fractured Fourie and Paulsen families. What happened to Jacqui Paulsen, who left home two years ago and hasn't been seen since?
In the Country of Men – Hisham Matar
Hisham Matar's novel reflects the brutality of Gaddafi's Libya through the eyes of a young boy. In Tripoli in the summer of 1979, nine-year-old Suleiman struggles to make sense of his father's disappearance and of the terror it induces in the adults around him. In this country of torturers and their victims, boys must be men.
It is not just torture and kidnapping that Suleiman has to deal with. Why is his mother becoming increasingly dependent on the illicit "medicine" supplied by the baker; why is she burning the books his father loves; why is the man in the car outside his house always asking him for the names of his father's friends; and why is his best friend's father on television begging for his life before being hanged? These concerns have the boy permanently on edge, in a state of "quiet panic, as if at any moment the rug could be pulled from beneath my feet".
Matar distills his own experiences into this emotionally wrenching novel of love, repression and betrayal. His father disappeared into Gaddafi's jails in 1990, and his whereabouts remain unknown.
Under the Tripoli Sky – Kamal Ben Hameda
Tripoli in the 1960. A sweltering, segregated society. Hadachinou is a lonely boy. His mother shares secrets with her best friend Jamila while his father prays at the mosque. Sneaking through the sun drenched streets of Tripoli, he listens to the whispered stories of the women. He turns into an invisible witness to their repressed desires while becoming aware of his own.
Beyond the Rice Fields – Naivo
Fara and her father’s slave, Tsito, have been close since her father bought the boy after his forest village was destroyed. Now in Sahasoa, amongst the cattle and rice fields, everything is new for Tsito, and Fara at last has a companion. But as Tsito looks forward to the bright promise of freedom and Fara, backward to a dark, long-denied family history, a rift opens between them just as British Christian missionaries and French industrialists arrive and violence erupts across the country. Love and innocence fall away, and Tsito and Fara’s world becomes enveloped by tyranny, superstition, and fear.
With captivating lyricism, propulsive urgency, and two unforgettable characters at the story’s core, Naivo unflinchingly delves into the brutal history of nineteenth-century Madagascar. Beyond the Rice Fields is a tour de force that has much to teach us about human bondage and the stories we tell to face—and hide from—ourselves, each other, our pasts, and our destinies.
(The first book to be translated to English from Madagascar.Translation by Allison M. Charette).
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba
William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger, and a place where hope and opportunity were hard to find. But William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his life and the lives of those around him. His neighbors may have mocked him and called him misala—crazy—but William was determined to show them what a little grit and ingenuity could do.
Enchanted by the workings of electricity as a boy, William had a goal to study science in Malawi's top boarding schools. But in 2002, his country was stricken with a famine that left his family's farm devastated and his parents destitute. Unable to pay the eighty-dollar-a-year tuition for his education, William was forced to drop out and help his family forage for food as thousands across the country starved and died.
Yet William refused to let go of his dreams. With nothing more than a fistful of cornmeal in his stomach, a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks, and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to bring his family a set of luxuries that only two percent of Malawians could afford and what the West considers a necessity—electricity and running water. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves, William forged a crude yet operable windmill, an unlikely contraption and small miracle that eventually powered four lights, complete with homemade switches and a circuit breaker made from nails and wire. A second machine turned a water pump that could battle the drought and famine that loomed with every season.
Soon, news of William's magetsi a mphepo—his "electric wind"—spread beyond the borders of his home, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspiration to those around the world.
Here is the remarkable story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual's ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.
The Jive Talker: Or, How to get a British Passport – Samson Kambalu
In this completely original, often subversive, book, Samson Kambalu writes of his childhood in Malawi, a country few are able to pinpoint on a map. As the family moves from feast to real poverty and deprivation, and back to plenty again, depending on their father's professional fortunes, we are introduced to life in a country in which no dissent is tolerated, where political opponents are 'disappeared' and a portrait of Life President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda is always guaranteed to be watching. But this is also a country in which a little boy obsessed with books, girls, Nietzsche, fashion, football and Michael Jackson wins a free education at the Kamuzu Academy ('The Eton of Africa') and grows up to be one of England's most promising young conceptual artists. With dazzling prose, wicked humour and not a little bit of artistic licence, The Jive Talker opens the door to an Africa that is rarely written about.
The Fortunes of Wangrin – Amadou Hampate Ba
Wangrin is a rogue and an operator, hustling both the colonial French and his own people. He is funny, outrageous, corrupt, traditional, and memorable. Ba's book bridges the chasm between oral and written literature. The stories about Wangrin are drawn from oral sources, but in the hands of this gifted writer these materials become transformed through the power of artistic imagination and license.
The Desert and the Drum (Dedalus Africa) – Mbarfek Ould Beyrouk
The Desert and the Drum is the first novel ever to be translated into English from Mauritania. It won the Ahmadou-Kourouma Prize in 2016.
Everything changes for Rayhana when foreigners with strange machines arrive to mine for metal near her Bedouin camp. One of them is the enigmatic Yahya. Rayhana’s association with him leads to her abandoning all she knows and fleeing alone to the city. When her tribe discover she’s stolen their sacred drum they pursue her to exact their revenge. Though Rayhana has her own missing person to seek.
The Desert and the Drum tells of Rayhana’s rift with her family, the disturbing characters she encounters in the metropolis, her attempts to separate friend from foe and to find a place for herself amidst the contradictions of contemporary Mauritania.
Guantanamo Diary – Mohamedou Ould Slahi
When Guantano Diary was first published - heavily redacted by the U.S. government--in 2015, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was still imprisoned at the detainee camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, despite a federal court ruling ordering his release and it was unclear when or if he would ever see freedom. In October 2016, he was finally released and reunited with his family. During his 14-year imprisonment, the United States never charged him with a crime.
Now for the first time, he is able to tell his story in full, with previously censored material restored. This searing diary is not merely a vivid record of a miscarriage of justice, but a deeply personal memoir---terrifying, darkly humorous, and surprisingly gracious. Guantanamo Diary is a document of immense emotional power and historical importance.
The Rape of Sita – Lindsey Collen
Banned within hours of publication in her native Mauritius for enraging fundamentalists, Lindsey Collen's path breaking The Rape of Sita went on to win the prestigious Commonwealth Prize for Best Novel in Africa.
A powerful and stylistically innovative work, Collen's novel exemplifies the brilliant creative possibilities of postcolonial literature. Deftly blending oral and literary traditions, this masterpiece reveals the history, repression and resistance of an entire people through the story of one woman, and introduces to American readers a major literary voice.
About my Mother – Tahar Ben Jelloun
Since she's been ill, Lalla Fatma has become a frail little thing with a faltering memory. Lalla Fatma thinks she's in Fez in 1944, where she grew up, not in Tangier in 2000, where this story begins. She calls out to family members who are long dead and loses herself in the streets of her childhood, yearning for her first love and the city she left behind.
By her bedside, her son Tahar listens to long-hidden secrets and stories from her past: married while still playing with dolls and widowed for the first time at the age of sixteen. Guided by these fragments, Tahar vividly conjures his mother's life in post-war Morocco, unravelling the story of a woman for whom resignation was the only way out.Tender and compelling, About My Mother maps the beautiful, fragile and complex nature of human experience, while paying tribute to a remarkable woman and the bond between mother and son.
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits – Laila Lalami
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco. As four Moroccans illegally cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain, author Laila Lalami asks, What has driven them to risk their lives? And will the rewards prove to be worth the danger? There’s Murad, a gentle, unemployed man who’s been reduced to hustling tourists around Tangier; Halima, who’s fleeing her drunken husband and the slums of Casablanca; Aziz, who must leave behind his devoted wife in hope of securing work in Spain; and Faten, a student and religious fanatic whose faith is at odds with an influential man determined to destroy her future. Sensitively written with beauty and boldness, this is a gripping book about what propels people to risk their lives in search of a better future.
A Place in the Old Village – Tahar Ben Jelloun
The story of an immigrant named Mohammed who has spent forty years in France and is about to retire. Taking stock of his life- his devotion to Islam and to his assimilated children-he decides to return to Morocco, where he spends his life's savings building the biggest house in the village and waits for his children and grandchildren to come be with him. A heartbreaking novel about parents and children, A Palace in the Old Village captures the sometimes stark contrasts between old- and new-world values, and an immigrant's abiding pursuit of home.
The Other Americans – Laila Lalami ( My bonus)
Late one spring night, as Driss Guerraoui is walking across a darkened intersection in California, he’s killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters: Guerraoui’s daughter Nora, a jazz composer who returns to the small town in the Mojave she thought she’d left for good; his widow, Maryam, who still pines after her life in the old country; Efraín, an undocumented witness whose fear of deportation prevents him from coming forward; Jeremy, an old friend of Nora’s and an Iraqi War veteran; Coleman, a detective who is slowly discovering her son’s secrets; Anderson, a neighbor trying to reconnect with his family; and the murdered man himself.
As the characters–deeply divided by race, religion, and class–tell their stories, connections among them emerge, even as Driss’s family confronts its secrets, a town faces its hypocrisies, and love–messy and unpredictable–is born.
Niketche: A Story of Polygamy – Paulina Chiziane
A farce that celebrates the triumph of six women over one philandering man, this novel uses an age-old African story to address the subjection of women in modern Mozambique. After 20 years of marriage, Rami discovers that her husband, a senior police officer in Maputo, has a very big secret: he has been supporting four other households, complete with wives and children, for many years. Deciding not to give in to anger, Rami turns the tables and decides to make an honest polygamist out of Tony, insisting that he marry her love rivals according to customary law. She and the other women quickly join forces--they even recruit a sixth woman Tony has taken as a lover--to demand their rights, their voices, and support for their children
Ualalapi: Fragments from the End of an Empire – Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa
it reflects on Mozambique's past and present through interconnected narratives related to the last ruler of the Gaza Empire, Ngungunhane. Defeated by the Portuguese in 1895, Ngungunhane was recuperated by Mozambique's post-independence government as a national and nationalist hero. The regime celebrated his resistance to the colonial occupation of southern Mozambique as a precursor to the twentieth-century struggle for independence. In Ualalapi, Ungulani challenges that ideological celebration and portrays Ngungunhane as a despot, highlighting the violence and tyranny that were markers of the Gaza Empire. This fresh look at the history of late nineteenth-century southeast Africa provides a prism through which to question the machinations of power in Mozambique during the 1980s.
Neigbours: The Story of a Murder – Lilia Momple
On the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid, Narguiss, who 'never wanted anything to do with politics', is more preoccupied with family problems than with the radio news of kidnappings and murders.
Nearby, Leia, Januário and their young daughter are caught up in the pleasure and security of finally finding a flat of their own, while Mena, who was once the beauty of her village, overhears her husband plotting murder.
Before dawn, these innocent people seeking to lead peaceful lives are thrown together in a vicious conspiracy to infiltrate and destabilise Mozambique.
Skilfully weaving together present events and age-old traditions through narrative 'snapshots', Lília Momplé gives us, in the drama of a few short hours, an insight into the consequences of Mozambique's complex history.
The Purple Violet of Oshaantu – Neshani Andreas
This is the story of a woman who refuses to mourn her husband's death. The village knew she was an unhappy wife, but she is still expected to weep and speak the praises of her husband. Her story reveals the value of friendship between women, based on liking rather than traditional beliefs.
The Epic of Askia Mohammed
Askia Mohammed is the most famous leader in the history of the Songhay Empire, which reached its apogee during his reign in 1493-1528. Songhay, approximately halfway between the present-day cities of Timbuktu in Mali and Niamey in Niger, became a political force beginning in 1463, under the leadership of Sonni Ali Ber. By the time of his death in 1492, the foundation had been laid for the development under Askia Mohammed of a complex system of administration, a well-equipped army and navy, and a network of large government-owned farms. The present rendition of the epic was narrated by the griot (or jesere) Nouhou Malio over two evenings in Saga, a small town on the Niger River, two miles downstream from Niamey. The text is a word-for-word translation from NouhouMalio's oral performance.
Tina Shot me Between the Eye: and Other Stories – Antoinette Tidjani Alou
A grandmother with a food-induced encounter, an ecclesial romance with a tomcat set in the throes of uncertain times, eating and drinking for freedom, wife battery under the watchful eyes of communal love, desperately seeking lovers burdened by violent pasts, and a woman taking liberty after nine children with nine husbands are some of the characters and stories in Antoinette Tidjani Alou's debut fiction collection. In fifteen formidable lyrical prose, Tina Shot Me Between the Eyes explores how the self is shaped and transformed by the knots we yearn to tie around ourselves: familial, spousal, parental, professional, and societal. It tackles how we struggle in relationships for nourishment and fulfilment, and how relationships could kill us and how we could kill to survive-a potent force for understanding humanity and the nuances of acts of violence, tolerance, faith and love.
Daughters Who Walk This Path – Yejide Kilanko
Spirited and intelligent, Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and family in busy, modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria. An adoring little sister, their traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo'shome their own. So there's nothing unusual about her charming but troubled cousin Bros T moving in with the family. At first Morayo and her sister are delighted, but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her. Thrust into a web of oppressive silence woven by the adults around her, Morayo must learn to fiercely protect herself and her sister from a legacy of silence many women in Morayo's family share. Only Aunty Morenike—once shielded by her own mother—provides Morayo with a safe home and a sense of female community that sustains her as she grows into a young woman in bustling, politically charged, often violent Nigeria
Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda N Adichie
Half of a Yellow Sun re-creates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed.Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.
Kehinde - Buchi Emecheta
Kehinde and her husband Albert had always intended to return to Nigeria. When the opportunity arises, Kehinde realises she is reluctant to leave London and the independence she has enjoyed there. Albert, longing for the prosperity and status that will be his in Nigeria, is determined not to be thwarted in his plans. He thinks that it is his wife's duty to obey him, and forces her to make terrible choices. Kehinde, plagued with guilt, is led on an unexpected path by the spirit of her dead twin
- Efuru – Flora Nwapa
- The Joys of Motherhood – Buchi Emecheta
Cockroaches – Scholastique Mukasonga
Imagine being born into a world where everything about you--the shape of your nose, the look of your hair, the place of your birth--designates you as an undesirable, an inferior, a menace, no better than a cockroach, something to be driven away and ultimately exterminated. Imagine being thousands of miles away while your family and friends are brutally and methodically slaughtered. Imagine being entrusted by your parents with the mission of leaving everything you know and finding some way to survive, in the name of your family and your people.
Scholastique Mukasonga's Cockroaches is the story of growing up a Tutsi in Hutu-dominated Rwanda--the story of a happy child, a loving family, all wiped out in the genocide of 1994. A vivid, bittersweet depiction of family life and bond in a time of immense hardship, it is also a story of incredible endurance, and the duty to remember that loss and those lost while somehow carrying on. Sweet, funny, wrenching, and deeply moving, Cockroaches is a window onto an unforgettable world of love, grief, and horror.
SAO TOME & PRINCIPE
Native Dance: An African Story / Dancing with Makengo – Gervasio Kaiser
Settlers are ruling the islands. Makengo stands up for a native child a European bully beats up and also takes care of the poor kid while his mother was away and unaware of what happened. This help brings him trouble with colonial masters. Nonetheless, the price he pays is followed by a trophy, a woman he longed for but never thought would arrive so soon. All thanks to his stand against the invaders.
Island Moors: Two African Short Stories – Gervasio Kaiser
THE MOOR OF SANKORE - After living abroad for years, Mamadu finishes his studies at the University of Sankore in the city of Timbuktu and flies back to Anguené Islands, his homeland. At the airport, the doors of freedom are shut before him. He begins to see the sorrow and grief a foreign power burdens the islands with. In one single strike he reopens the doors for a trip back to Timbuktu, and he plants seeds for the invaders’ withdrawal. Read this jewel of an African short story and see how Mamadu outsmarts the enemy.
THE STRANGER - If nobody catches the traitor, the enemy will bring another massacre on the people. With his dog, Valério goes down south to a town near a forest. Then a rainstorm joins him in his efforts as it sweeps the woods and visits the town. The mayor and his guards share Valério’s hopes and work even during the storm.
So Long a Letter – Mariama Ba
This novel is in the form of a letter, written by the widowed Ramatoulaye and describing her struggle for survival.
The Beggars’ Strike – Aminata Sow Fall
The sight of disease-ridden beggars in the streets is giving the town a bad name, and the tourists are starting to stay away. If the Director of Public Health and Hygiene can get rid of them he will have done a great service to the health and economy of the nation - not to mention his own promotion prospects. A plan of military precision is put into action to rid the streets of these verminous scroungers.
But the beggars are organized, too. They know that giving alms is a divine obligation and that Allah's good will is vital to worldly promotion. So when the beggars withdraw their charitable service, the pious city civil servants and businessmen start to panic.
Echoes from the Oasis – Anna Rosie Tirant
In 1814, the war being raged on the seas of the Indian Ocean by the all-powerful Franco-British naval forces trying to dominate the lucrative trade routes to India, had ended with a truce. At the stroke of a pen, far away in the city of Paris, the exotic, tropical islands of the Seychelles became a British colony. Forged from their French descendants and African slave roots, and moulded by their new British rulers, a small nation had emerged.
It is July 1912 on the island of Mahe, and Anna Savy has just turned sixteen. Anna is a passionate, nature-loving and rebellious young woman at a time when women are confined to specific roles and expectations, and custom and tradition prevail with reverence. Strongly-held beliefs in the goodness and righteousness of God, and in the secret and evil forces of witchcraft, hold equal sway in a closely-knit Catholic community.
As a young nurse, Anna experiences both the joy and pain of her people, for survival is a daily struggle for the majority. A smallpox epidemic brings tragedy to Mahe's Victoria Hospital, with the hatred and conflict between Anna's British and Irish colleagues laid bare, whilst forbidden love brings the missing dimension to her life.
But then, the First World War brings the worst possible disaster...
A Long Way Gone – Ishmael Beah
The devastating story of war through the eyes of a child soldier.Beah tells how, at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and became a soldier. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.
This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.
The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna
In contemporary Sierra Leone, a devastating civil war has left an entire populace with secrets to keep. In the capital hospital, a gifted young surgeon is plagued by demons that are beginning to threaten his livelihood. Elsewhere in the hospital lies a dying man who was young during the country’s turbulent postcolonial years and has stories to tell that are far from heroic.
As past and present intersect in the buzzing city, these men are drawn unwittingly closer by a British psychologist with good intentions, and into the path of one woman at the center of their stories. A work of breathtaking writing and rare wisdom, The Memory of Love seamlessly weaves together two generations of African life to create a story of loss, absolution, and the indelible effects of the past—and, in the end, the very nature of love.
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth – Warsan Shire
Collection of poems by Warsan Shire
Black Mamba Boy – Nadia Mohamed
Aden, Yemen, 1935; a city vibrant, alive, and full of hidden dangers. And home to Jama, a ten year-old boy. But then his mother dies unexpectedly and he finds himself alone in the world.Jama is forced home to his native Somalia, the land of his nomadic ancestors. War is on the horizon and the fascist Italian forces who control parts of East Africa are preparing for battle. Yet Jama cannot rest until he discovers whether his father, who has been absent from his life since he was a baby, is alive somewhere.
And so begins an epic journey which will take Jama north through Djibouti, war-torn Eritrea and Sudan, to Egypt. And from there, aboard a ship transporting Jewish refugees just released from German concentration camps, across the seas to Britain and freedom.This story of one boy's long walk to freedom is also the story of how the Second World War affected Africa and its people; a story of displacement and family.
Desert Flower – Waris Dirie
Waris Dirie ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert when she was barely in her teens, illiterate and impoverished, with nothing to her name but a tattered shawl. She traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu—the first leg of a remarkable journey that would take her to London, where she worked as a house servant; then to nearly every corner of the globe as an internationally renowned fashion model; and ultimately to New York City, where she became a human rights ambassador for the U.N. Desert Flower is her extraordinary story.
Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love
Coconut – Kopano Matlwa
Debut novel about growing up black in white suburbs, where the cost of fitting in can be your very identity. Redefining what it means to be young, black and beautiful in the the New South Africa.
The story follows the lives of two black girls from opposite backgrounds in modern-day South Africa, a country still marred by racism and social inequality. Matlwa intelligently confronts issues faced by black millennials today, such as colonized consciousness and the loss of culture and heritage.Winner of the European Union Literary Award.
There is a Country: New Fiction from the Nation of South Sudan – Nyuol Lueth Tong
There Is a Country collects eight engrossing pieces by South Sudanese authors—the first collection of its kind, from the youngest country in the world. Wrestling with a history marked by war and displacement, the work here presents a fresh and necessary account of an emerging nation, past and present. In vivid, gripping prose,
There Is a Country's stories explore youth and love, life and death: a first glimpse of what South Sudanese literature has to offer.
Season of Migration to the North – Tayib Saleh
After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land.
But what is the meaning of Mustafa’s shocking confession? Mustafa disappears without explanation, leaving the young man—whom he has asked to look after his wife—in an unsettled and violent no-man’s-land between Europe and Africa, tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement, and man and woman, from which no one will escape unaltered or unharmed.
Elsewhere Home - Leila Aboulela
A young woman's encounter with a former classmate elicits painful reminders of her former life in Khartoum. A wealthy Sudanese student in Aberdeen begins an unlikely friendship with a Scottish man. A woman experiences an evolving relationship to her favourite writer, whose portrait of their shared culture both reflects and conflicts with her own sense of identity.
Shuttling between the dusty, sun-baked streets of Khartoum and the university halls and cramped apartments of Aberdeen and London, Elsewhere, Home explores, with subtlety and restraint, the profound feelings of yearning, loss and alienation that come with leaving one's homeland in pursuit of a different life.
Desertion – Abdulrazak Gurnah
In 1899, an Englishman named Martin Pearce stumbles out of the desert into an East African coastal town and is rescued by Hassanali, a shopkeeper whose beautiful sister Rehana nurses Pearce back to health. Pearce and Rehana begin a passionate illicit love affair, which resonates fifty years later when the narrator’s brother falls madly in love with Rehana’s granddaughter. In the story of two forbidden love affairs and their effects on the lovers’ families, Abdulrazak Gurnah brilliantly dramatizes the personal and political consequences of colonialism, the vicissitudes of love, and the power of fiction.
By the Sea – Abdulrazak Gurnah
"Refugee", I said, pointing at my chest. "Asylum". When Saleh Omar arrives at Gatwick Airport late one afternoon, he has a badly faked passport and exhibits no knowledge of English beyond these two words. He was once a furniture shop owner, a husband, and a father. Now he has arrived in England seeking asylum from his native Zanzibar, using silence and claiming ignorance as his only protection. Meanwhile, Latif Mahmud, a poet and professor, lives quietly alone in his London flat, bitter about the country and family he has left behind and never revisited. When the two men meet in a small English seaside town, there begins the unraveling of a feud from long ago -- a story of seduction and deception, of the haphazard displacement of people.This is a profoundly moving and eloquent look into the minds of two immigrants, two "others", who have left one home by the sea and gone halfway around the world to take up residence in another. Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose novel Paradise was short-listed for the prestigious Booker Prize, has created a stunning and elegiac look at a world where imperialism opens boundaries -- only to close off borders.
The Shadow of Things to Come – Kossi Efoui
In an unnamed African nation, the people are subject to a state of perpetual warfare and to an Orwellian abuse of language that strips from language its meaning and renders life senseless. And in a bare room lit only by moonlight, a young man hides, waiting for the mysterious crocodile-men to come and help him escape from the violent tyranny of the state. While he waits, he tells his story.
This is Kossi Efoui’s catastrophic and carnivalesque dreamscape, the dark setting of The Shadow of Things to Come. Here, men and women are taken in the night, spirited away from their families and sent to plantation penal colonies to be worked to the edge of madness. When they return, they are empty shells, their lost time referred to as the “Time of Annexation.” But though his parents were taken, our protagonist survived, first in the care of a quirky benefactress named Mama Maize, then under the wing of the state itself, as a student at one of its elite schools. When he meets a bookseller named Axis Kemal, however, he has found a surrogate father, an eccentric and wise man who can bring him out of the meaningless confusion and tell him the truth about the society he lives in.
Through his characters, Efoui speaks out against atrocity and the abuse of power, but more, he writes against political rhetoric and the destruction of meaning by government. This novel is a love letter to language and, in Chris Turner’s dazzling translation, it becomes a stunning introduction for English-language readers to an exciting new talent
Descent into Night – Edem Awumey
Ito Baraka is going to die. In Gatineau, far from the sun, in a dark, shabby flat he shares with his Native girlfriend, Kimi. But before he can die, he has a book to finish, in which he recounts events in a country where the suns burns, burns the skin, burns the brain, burns the retina of those forced to look at it without blinking. A country where another sun blazes: a dictator in the grips of fear. Is magic not the most dangerous form of subversion? Ito makes the acquaintance of blind KoliLem. In the middle of the blackest night, in the words they share, in their very flesh, they become each other's sole source of light. (Translation by Phyllis Aronoff, Howard Scott)
A Tunisian Tale – Hassouna Mosbahi
After ne'er-do-wells spread rumors about a widowed mother's weak moral character among the people of a slum on the outskirts of Tunis that festers with migrants who have come to the metropolis from the heartland in search of a better life, her twenty-year-old son takes matters into his own hands and commits an unspeakable crime. An imaginative and disturbing novel told from the alternating viewpoints of this unrepentant sociopath, as he sits and fumes on death row but willingly guides us through his juvenile exploits and twisted memories, and his murdered mother, who calmly gives an account of her interrupted life from beyond the grave, A Tunisian Tale introduces the narrative talents of Hassouna Mosbahi to an English-language audience for the first time, as he confronts both taboos of Tunisian society and the boundaries of conventional storytelling
The Influence Peddlers – Heidi Kaddour
Gather together French colonialists, young nationalists eager for independence, and local Maghreb leaders in a small North African city of the 1920s. Bring a collection of brash American filmmakers and celebrities into the picture. Dangerous cultural collisions are the inevitable result in HédiKaddour’s best-selling novel of French colonial rule and its persisting legacy of human chaos and cultural tragedy.
In this commanding novel, the author plumbs the contradictions of colonialism and the impact on individual lives. With insight, humor, and a profound sense of irony he introduces Les Prépondérants—“The Preponderants,” an unofficial group of peddlers of influence who operate at every level of colonial society. American “Hollywood” values, Islamic and secular politics, French manners—none of them escapes Kaddour’s skewering wit. Filled with rich irony and wonderful characters, this is a novel that grapples forcefully with colonial relations in the Arabic, North African, and French worlds, while also journeying into the simmering Europe and United States of the Roaring Twenties.
Kintu – Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
In 1750, Kintu Kidda unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations. In this ambitious tale of a clan and of a nation, Makumbi weaves together the stories of Kintu’s descendants as they seek to break from the burden of their shared past and reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future
Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe – Doreen Baingana
In her fiction debut, Doreen Baingana follows a Ugandan girl as she navigates the uncertain terrain of adolescence. Set mostly in pastoral Entebbe with stops in the cities Kampala and Los Angeles, Tropical Fish depicts the reality of life for Christine Mugisha and her family after Idi Amin's dictatorship.
The Old Drift – Namwali Serpell
On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis. The tale?A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction.The moral? To err is human.
In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives – their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes – form a symphony about what it means to be human.
From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines – this gripping, unforgettable novel sweeps over the years and the globe, subverting expectations along the way. Exploding with colour and energy, The Old Drift is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time
We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo
Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo's belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.
But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America's famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few.
Butterfly Burning – Yvonne Vera
Butterfly Burning brings the brilliantly poetic voice of Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera to American readers for the first time. Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late 1940s, the novel is an intensely bittersweet love story. When Fumbatha, a construction worker, meets the much younger Phephelaphi, he"wants her like the land beneath his feet from which birth had severed him." He in turn fills her "with hope larger than memory." But Phephelaphi is not satisfied with their "one-room" love alone. The qualities that drew Fumbatha to her, her sense of independence and freedom, end up separating them. And the closely woven fabric of township life, where everyone knows everyone else, has a mesh too tight and too intricate to allow her to escape her circumstances on her own.
Vera exploits language to peel away the skin of public and private lives. In Butterfly Burning she captures the ebullience and the bitterness of township life, as well as the strength and courage of her unforgettable heroine.
Nervous Conditions #1– Tsitsi Dangarembga
A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rights. An extraordinarily well-crafted work, this book is a work of vision. Through its deft negotiation of race, class, gender and cultural change, it dramatizes the 'nervousness' of the 'postcolonial' conditions that bedevil us still. In Tambu and the women of her family, we African women see ourselves, whether at home or displaced, doing daily battle with our changing world with a mixture of tenacity, bewilderment and grace.
The Book of Not #2– Tsitsi Dangarembga
A sequel to Nervous Conditions, this is a powerful and engaging story about one young woman's quest to redefine the personal and political forces that threaten to engulf her. As its title suggests, this is also a book about denial and unfulfilled expectations and about the theft of the self that remains one of colonialism's most pernicious legacies. The novel disrupts any comfortable sense of closure to the dilemmas of colonial modernity explored in Nervous Conditions and as such is a fitting sequel
This Mournable Body #3 – Tsitsi Dangarembga
Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare. For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.
In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival. As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. It is this homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel that culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.