Lose Yourself in These Six African Stories
Reading is a ritual. Most people will tell you they read their best books (regardless of genre) to relax and unwind. For fun. You get cosy, when you prepare to get stuck into your latest read. You prepare a mug of warm brew or a tall glass of something chilled. You are ready to disappear. But, it’s often hard to disappear into African worlds. Not because they don’t exist, it’s usually because they can be hard to find.
Consuming African work can get hard in this increasingly global world. Retailers have been consistently called out for the way they treat African literature: for example, lumping all the books written by African authors in one, tiny display. In other cases, African authors aren’t even given the kind of top of mind display that other authors enjoy.
It doesn’t matter how willing we are to read and support literature by African authors and publishers if the access to it is still what it is. Globalisation shouldn’t mean discarding our own. Books by African authors should not only receive prime spots in shops but they should also be in public libraries and in schools. This is after all, Africa.
Here are quick fire recommendations of books by African authors you should add to your reading list or recommend to your book club today:
- Ways of Dying (1995, Jacana) by ZakesMda
South African playwright and author Zakes Mda sets his acclaimed debut novel in apartheid South Africa. The protagonist is professional mourner in an unnamed city. In 2001, the book was adapted into a jazz opera called Love and Green Onions.
- Americanah (2013, Alfred Knopf) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A story about first love, the politics of hair and what it means to belong, Chimamanda Ngozi’s award-winning third novel is captivating.
- When Rain Clouds Gather (1968, Gollancz) by Bessie Head
About love, emigration, making home in a new place and the resilience of hope, When Rain Clouds Gather is an African classic.
- Bom Boy (2011, Modjaji Books) by Yewande Omotoso
Bom Boy deals with questions of identity and what makes us who we are. Being raised adoptive parents, Leke, the protagonists, starts experiencing a shift in personality that can be traced to his birth father. This debut was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction prize in 2012 and the Etisalat Prize in 2014.
- Nervous Conditions (1988, Women’s Press) by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Through Tambu and her cousin Nyasha, who is newly returned from Britain, we learn what it was like to be a girl in colonised Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). The girls battle patriarchal expectations as they try to find their place in the world. Issues of identity, home and power are tackled.