Over the past four years or so, I've hardly touched a book of fiction. Although I've thoroughly enjoyed all the stuff I have been reading and the learning its facilitated, I miss the experience of getting lost in another world. I've been noting down recommendations here and there and keeping lists on my beloved Evernote but I thought it would make sense to create one central list here on the blog.
What makes these books 'African'?
The common denominator between the books on this list is simply that they are are works of fiction and that they are written by authors of African heritage. That is not enough to assume that they will all be telling a particular kind of story. Rather, from what I've heard about them, they are just universally good stories.
The theory goes that your background will always influence your thinking and expression, on some level, conscious or not. At the same time, I can understand why many African writers (and other creatives) have not wanted to be put in the 'African' box. They want their work to stand on its own as good work. They want to be free of the limitations of other people's expectations of what and how they should write.
So why create an 'African reading list' in the first place? As a young reader, it was wonderful to discover books written by people who weren't from the West because they were often telling stories about places and experiences that were very different to most of what I'd read. Stories set in South America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. Or stories about people from these places, navigating worlds new to them.
Sometimes these stories were about places and experiences that I could relate to because they were so similar to mine! I could see myself and people I knew in the characters.
As an adult, there are added dimensions to my wanting to read stories by writers of African heritage. First, I want to do my part in supporting African creatives for taking the road less travelled and inspiring more of us to do the same, by showing that it is possible to journey well. As the ambitions of these writers is unleashed, and as they shake off all moulds, it's exciting to see them create a new literary canon that has more to do with skill and creativity than nationality or race. It's something that I think resonates with many of us Africans, on the continent and in the diaspora, who are participating in this global landscape and wanting to do so as equal players.
On to the list!
I'll be adding to the list over time and making a note of my impressions as I read through it. Please be patient with me, it might take a while! Lastly, I always love suggestions so, please do share.
In no particular order:
- The Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Palm-Wine Drinkard – Amos Tutuola
- The Rebel – Albert Camus
- The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna
- The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives – Lola Shoneyin
- Powder Necklace – Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
- Zenzele: A Letter for my Daughter – Nozipo Maraire
- Tropical Fish: Stories out of Entebbe – Doreen Baingana
- Efuru – Flora Nwapa
- Abyssinian Chronicles: A Novel – Moses Isegawa
- Ghana Must Go – Taiye Selasi
- Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Hairdresser of Harare – Tendai Huchu
- Blonde Roots – Bernadine Evaristo
- Black Star Nairobi – Mukoma Wa Ngugi
- The Orchard of Lost Souls – Nadifa Mohamed
- Bonfires of the Gods – Andrew Eseimokumo Oki
- Fairytales for Lost Children – Diriye Osman (not yet available)
- My African Non-Fiction Reading List
- Great Girls in African Literature that your Daughter Should Know
- Inspired: Chinua Achebe Book Covers – the great writer inspired great design
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