Happy Thursday everyone! It’s no secret that I have always had a long love affair with reading but my appreciation for African literature is surprisingly young. I think it’s the classic case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone. Why do I say this? Well growing up in Ghana, I only ever read African literary classics like The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta, for instance, in Secondary school where it was required reading. Back then getting lost in a book meant escaping to the wizarding world of Harry Potter -I used to stay up past my bedtime and read the series with a torchlight which gave my poor Grandma heart palpitations- or the different American settings told by Sidney Sheldon.
However, after living in the USA and being constantly bombarded by single stories of war, poverty etc. about Africa because you know it’s all just one country right?- I longed so fiercely for representations of the Ghana and Africa I knew. I randomly read Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus set in Nigeria and felt that longing so beautifully quenched. How you ask? Because the interactions between the characters, the themes explored in the book, etc. were all ones I had experienced growing up in Ghana. To put it simply, it was us as Africans telling our own stories and controlling our narratives for once. Thus, a new love affair was born. However, I’ve noticed recently that I have read a lot by the same few authors, from the same few countries so I’ve scoured Amazon reviews, many book lists and even podcasts in an effort to present a diverse offering that will enable us all to explore and broaden our horizons of the African continent. Without further ado, let’s move on to the list!
The traffickers. The drug dealers. The smugglers. They know what it takes to get a gun into Morocco, and so does Detective Laafrit. When a fourth corpse in three days washes up in Tangier with a bullet in the chest, Laafrit knows this isn’t just another ‘illegal’ who didn’t make it to the Spanish coast. As his team hunts for the murder weapon, Laafrit follows a hunch and reveals the killer at the heart of an international conspiracy.
I read a preview of this fast paced Moroccan crime thriller and boy did I devour it! It is the first Moroccan literature I’ve come across and the author is described as an Arabic crime fiction pioneer; suffice to say that he knows his stuff.
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?
The bold title and whimsical cover of this YA novel hooked me instantly. Then once I read that it was a tale of magic with a young protagonist with identity struggles plus a villain, I was sold! Nnedi Okafor is one of the most recognisable names in African science fiction and her book, Who Fears Death, which is set in a post apocalyptic Africa won best novel at the World Fantasy Awards.
A few years before Ghana’s independence, Lizzie-Achiaa’s lover disappears. Intent on finding him, she runs away from home. Akua Afriyie, Lizzie-Achiaa’s first daughter, strikes out on her own as a single parent in a country rocked by successive coups. Her daughter, Sugri grows up overprotected. She leaves home for university in New York, where she learns that sometimes one can have too much freedom. In the end, the secrets parents keep from their children eventually catch up with them.
Multi-generational characters and POVs? Check. Identity struggles? Check. Immigrant experience? Check. Post Colonial Ghana? Check. A secure spot on my reading list? Heck yeah, check! This 2009 debut novel by Ghanaian author, Ayesha Haruna Atta, was nominated for the 2010 CommonWealth Writer’s Prize.
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.
Kenya’s complex multi-racial and multi-cultural history has always intrigued me but it’s something that I sadly don’t know too much about. Hence, finding this book in my Amazon recommendations couldn’t have been more welcome. Its author, Peter Kimani, is a highly esteemed Kenyan poet and novelist.
In my naive mind, there are two kinds of Ghanaian, and to a larger extent, African marriages. The former is the traditional one often devoid of love, made for security and bound by all the undesirable cultural trappings. The latter is the rare love match, which flourishes in all the positives that modernity has to offer. Suffice to say that Adebayo’s debut novel turns this assumption on its head as a young, married Nigerian couple, a rare love match, who have trouble conceiving buckle under the weight of many societal pressures that threaten to tear them apart. This is Adebayo’s debut novel.
When it comes to love, things are not always what they seem. In contemporary Lagos, a young boy may pose as a woman online, and a maid may be suspected of sleeping with her employer and yet still become a young wife’s confidante. Men and women can be objects of fantasy, the subject of beery soliloquies. They can be trophies or status symbols. Or they can be overwhelming in their need. In the wide-ranging stories in Love Is Power, or Something Like That, A. Igoni Barrett roams the streets with people from all stations of life.
I first heard of this novel on a podcast, made a mental note to look it up on Amazon and then for the life of me couldn’t remember the title later on. Thankfully, I found it again and it’s now firmly lodged in my Amazon shopping basket. The author is based in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and his other novel, Blackass, explores race in Lagos using a very dramatic, satirical and funny premise.
Young Mukhtar is frozen in time, gazing at his beloved Fatma as she disappears into the streets of Tripoli, destined to a life of prostitution. Around these young lovers, Bushnaf weaves a compelling network of images: a litter-strewn park, a bewitching Italian statue and a fluttering red scarf. Through these images, imbued with social, historical and existential import, Bushnaf paints a dark portrait of a country in crisis and an individual, alone at the centre of conflicting ideologies, all attempting to explain his existence away.
Due to Libya’s continued political and economic destabilisation after Gaddafi’s death, many have argued that the dictator’s rule was necessary. But life in Libya under such a ruler was certainly not a walk in the park either and who better to tackle this subject matter than Chewing Gum’s author, Mansour Bushnaf, who was imprisoned for a decade in the 1970’s for his political activism. Bushnaf is an esteemed novelist, playwright and essayist.
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. 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.
This debut novel from Cameroon native and US resident, Imbolo Mbue, has been on just about every “Best Books of the Year” or “Must Reads” list I’ve seen which obviously gives me warm fuzzies. As an immigrant myself, stories that explore how we navigate the opportunities and challenges our new worlds present whilst holding on to home is always a pleasure to read. To be honest, I’m not sure how and why I still haven’t read this book yet #dontbemelikeme
When Nyamuragi, 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 Nyamuragi’s attempts at explanation.
Very few novels have managed to intrigue and stay with me for as long as this book has. And this is all before I’ve even read it! Baho! holds the honor as the first Burundian novel translated to English; French and Kirundi are the country’s official languages. Read an excerpt of the book here
Bonus Title: This novel is the first in the Darko Dawson Mystery series which currently has 5 instalments. In Wife of the gods, we are introduced to our protagonist, Detective Inspector Darko Dawson, “dedicated family man, rebel in the office, ace in the field” who has had to leave behind a wife and child in Ghana’s capital, Accra, to lead a murder investigation in the small town of Ketanu. To solve the case of a promising medical student’s mysterious death, the Detective has to tackle the local police’s resistance, outdated local customs and his personal, emotional conflicts. The author, Kwei Quartey, is a Ghanaian and American doctor and crime fiction writer.
So, which title are you most excited by? Which ones have you already read and which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comment section below!