Anyone that knows me knows of my love for the written word. This past decade has seen the explosion of African literature which has been awesome for readers, such as myself, hungry for books that speak to the African experience and has characters that we can relate to.
But more than just the literary genre, the books being produced by Africans range from chicklit to sci-fi to AfroFuturism to thrillers. While they do shed light on the societal and political struggles of present day Africa, the writing transcends that.
Here are 10 African Authors whose books I have loved.
- Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi – Kintu and Manchester Happened
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi has done for Ugandan literature what Chinua Achebe did for Nigeria. Her books are truly relatable and are written with the Ugandan reader in mind while also demystifying the Ugandan peoples. Her use of Ugandan English (Uglish) and the characters whose reflection is ourselves or the man down the street. Her style of writing. I can’t wait to read more of what she produces.
The books she has written and books that I have enjoyed and appreciate and consider to be my top books.
Kintu: a saga that spans generations and explores ideas of transgression, curses and perpetuity, and through the lense of the kintu clan, is a look back at the history of the Buganda Kingdom and Uganda as a whole.
Manchester Happened: this is a collection of short stories that speak to the Ugandan immigrant’s plight. It’s divided into two parts, the arrival in the UK and the arrival back home, in Uganda. The book also contains the story that won her the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, called, Let Us Tell This Story Properly.
- Novuyo Rosa Tshuma – House of Stone
House of Stone should be canonized as one of Africa’s best novels of the last decade. Novuyo created a piece of work that has lived on in my head a full year after I read it. From the style of writing, to the sombre subject matter, to the unreliable narrator, this book is a classic. Through the stories told to the narrator, we, the readers, get to learn about the horrific but not-often talked about, Gukurahundi genocide.
Having read her short story in the New Daughters of Africa Anthology and with this novel, I am excited and I can’t wait to read more of Novuyo’s work.
- Yaa Gyasi – HomeGoing
Homegoing is a tale about two half-sisters that are unaware of each other’s existence as they were separated by forces beyond their control. One is sold into slavery while the other is married off to a British slaver.
The book, that opens in the 1770s Ghana (Gold Coast), traces the generations of the families of the two sisters that follow, as destiny, or is it fate, leads them through two different continents, Africa and America and three hundred years of history without the story feeling rushed or incomplete.
- Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, The Serial Killer
I was messing around with my goodreads account when I stumbled on this book. I am currently still reading it but so far it is amazing. It is dark humour, a genre I deeply appreciate.
As the title suggests, the story is about two sisters, one of whom has a nasty habit of killing her boyfriends. Set in Nigeria, amid a corrupt system of law and order, Korede is forever coming to the aid of her beautiful, but kooky, younger sister, Ayoola, the serial killer. Things come to a head when the man Korede has a crush on falls her sister.
- Igoni A. Barrett – BlackAss
BlackAss is a unique book. The book is about Furo Wariboko – born and bred in Lagos – who wakes up on the morning of his job interview to discover he has turned into a white man. But as the title suggests, his ass remains robustly black. Blackass is a satirical novel about decolonization, to a small extent, the effects of social media and transformation. Blackass focuses on questions of race, gender, and identity, thematically
- Okey Ndibe – Arrows of Rain, Foreign Gods Inc., and Never Look an American in the Eye.
I had the opportunity to meet, shake hands with and pick the mind of Okey Ndibe last year and let me tell you, it was amazing. He is so nice but so so knowledgeable. He has this charisma about him and he is passionate about creative writing and African literature.
Arrows of Rain is about the price of silence (a story never forgives silence) and Foreign Gods Inc. tells the story of Ike, a New York-based Nigerian cab driver who sets out to steal the statue of an ancient war deity from his home village and sell it to a New York gallery. Never Look an American in the Eye is an autobiographical look into the making of a Nigerian American. The books tells of his move from Nigeria to America. It recounts stories of Ndibe’s relationships with Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and other literary figures, and examines the differences between Nigerian and American etiquette and politics.
- Jackson Biko – Drunk
Jackson Biko, of the famed Bikozulu blog wrote a book. It’s a little book and as hilarious as it is, it deals with the disturbing theme of alcoholism. It is written in the distinctly Bikozulu style that blends serious subject matter with hilarious writing.
I love his blog and would love to see him publish books.
- Lola Shoneyin – The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
The title alone should clue you in to the absolute wonderful craziness that is this book. It’s Lola Shoneyin’s debut book and it deals with issues of polygamy, family politics and relationships. This novel is so real. It managed to show so many angles of real life in a Nigerian household all in one narrative.
- Petina Gappah – The Book of Memory
In Memory, Petina created the best kind of narrator, the unreliable narrator. Memory is an albino woman incarcerated in a Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, and she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?
- Angela Makholwa – The Blessed Girl and Red Ink
Angela Makholwa made history as the first black person to write a crime novel in South Africa. The book, Red Ink, a chilling account of a journalist on the hunt of a story and the serial killer giving her the story, is set in Johannesburg.
The Blessed Girl is the first African chick lit book that I have read and I enjoyed. I was sucked into Bontle Tau’s blessee-blesser world and her craziness. I enjoyed it so much.
There are so many more books that haven’t made this list that I loved reading. As a reader, I am excited for the growth that I am witnessing in the African publishing sector and I can’t wait to read more and more of what I know will be released soon. If I could read for a living, I would.
Mable Barbara Amuron is a multi-talented award-winning creative with a passion for the written word. She’s a writer, an editor, a poet and, most importantly, a reader.
She enjoys watching words become something coherent and something that can entertain, inform and inspire.
Blog URL: mablesrants.wordpress.com
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