In honor of International Literacy Day, I compiled a list of some of my favourite books written by African authors (with the exception of the book about Fela). There are many books I could’ve added to this post but these were the first that came to mind.
There’s no order to this list and each comes highly recommended as they, in some way, changed me for the better. If I had to pick a favourite it would undoubtedly be Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions simply because it was the first book I read in which I related so deeply to several of the characters – and still do. From Nyasha’s struggle with depression and being caught between two cultures she feels alienated by, to Tambu’s hunger for a world beyond her circumstances. Ugandan author Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol comes in a close second, it’s just about as cheeky and blunt as I am in some parts and, perhaps a little out of narcissism, is why I enjoyed it.
Between these 18 books you’ll find everything from the personal to the political, and everything in-between. There’s love, there’s romance, there’s struggle, there’s strife, there’s beauty and there’s ugly too. No story is as simple as their titles may suggest, just read Camara Laye’s L’enfant Noir (The African Child) that explores the author’s early childhood in Guinea under French colonisation, or South African writer Sol Plaatjie’s historical novel Mhudi written in 1919 that placed a woman at the center of a story that deals with survival, displacement and early European colonisation in South Africa.
For anyone interested in reading these books, I found some of them available online (not all are complete):
- Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo
- Maru by Bessie Head
- Fela: This Bitch of A Life by Carlos Moore
- Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono
- No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe
- I Write What I Like by Steve Biko
- Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
- So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba
- Mhudi by Sol Plaatjie
- The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah
- The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol by Okot P’Bitek
- Welcome to Our Hillbrow by Phaswane Mpe
- The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
- GraceLand by Chris Abani
since January of this year, i’ve made it a goal to read more African fiction, and it has definitely been worth the effort. so far, though, i have only been able to read two by Adichie, Nervous Conditons, and The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. currently, i’m reading African Love Stories edited by Ama Ata Aidoo. but i’m saving these others for future reference.