10 of the Best Books by African Authors | TheReviewGeek Recommends

African literature is a rich tapestry of diverse voices and stories that have captivated readers across the globe. From classic works to contemporary gems, here are 10 must-read books by African authors that deserve a place on your bookshelf, according to avid readers.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is the story of Okonkwo, a respected warrior and leader of Umuofia, a clan in Nigeria. The novel explores the power struggles, masculinity and the traditional African culture, as well as the arrival of Europeans who bring along changes.

Okonkwo’s fear and anger, driven by his past, causes him to cling to his society’s ideals. However, his world falls apart as he confronts the British forces. The novel’s unique African setting and Achebe’s keen awareness of human qualities capture the complexities of the human condition, making it a significant work of literature.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite tells the story of two sisters, Korede and Ayoola, living in Nigeria. Ayoola has a habit of killing her boyfriends, leaving Korede to clean up the mess. When Ayoola starts dating the doctor Korede is secretly in love with, Korede must choose between protecting her sister or the man she loves.

As the story progresses, Korede is forced to confront her loyalty to her family and the consequences of Ayoola’s actions. The novel explores themes of sisterhood, loyalty, and the societal expectations placed on women in Nigeria. Through a mix of humour and suspense, Braithwaite crafts a gripping and thought-provoking story.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie follows the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze, a young couple from Nigeria. Ifemelu moves to America, where she faces challenges and experiences racial identity for the first time. Meanwhile, Obinze is unable to join her and finds himself living an undocumented life in London.

After fifteen years, they both return to Nigeria, now a democracy, and rediscover their love for each other and their country. The novel explores themes of love, immigration, racial identity, and the complexities of postcolonial Nigeria. Adichie’s powerful storytelling captures the experiences and struggles of individuals navigating different cultures and societies.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime is Trevor Noah’s memoir about growing up in apartheid South Africa as a biracial child. Noah was born to a Swiss father and a Xhosa mother, a union that was illegal at the time. The book delves into the challenges Noah faced due to his mixed race, including being kept indoors to avoid detection.

As South Africa transitioned out of apartheid, Noah and his mother embarked on a journey of freedom and opportunity. The memoir highlights Noah’s struggles to find his place in a society that deemed his existence a crime, as well as his relationship with his determined and religious mother.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a sweeping and emotionally powerful novel that spans three hundred years in Ghana and America. The story follows two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, born in eighteenth-century Ghana. While Effia marries an Englishman and lives a comfortable life, Esi is sold into slavery and sent to America. One thread of the novel follows Effia’s descendants as they navigate Ghana’s history of warfare, colonization, and the slave trade.

The other thread follows Esi’s children and their journey from slavery to the present day in America. Gyasi’s debut novel explores the impact of historical forces on individual lives, capturing the enduring legacy of captivity and the resilience of generations.

So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ

So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ is an autobiographical novella set in Senegal during the post-colonial period. The story follows Ramatoulaye, a widow dealing with the loss of her husband who had abandoned her for another woman. Despite having twelve children with Ramatoulaye, he takes a second wife who is young enough to be his daughter. Ramatoulaye writes a long letter to her friend Aissatou, who has broken through Senegal’s societal expectations and become an ambassador in America.

In her letter, Ramatoulaye voices her frustration with the gender inequality in her country, including the limited opportunities for women and the lack of representation in government. Ba’s writing is a moving expression of the desire for equality, particularly for women in Africa, and is widely regarded as a landmark book in African literature. So Long a Letter is a testament to Ba’s legacy as a pioneering female African writer, shining a light on the challenges and resilience of women striving for equality.

Binti (Binti) by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is a gripping science fiction tale by Nnedi Okorafor. The story revolves around Binti, a young Himba girl offered a place at Oomza University, an esteemed institution in the galaxy. However, accepting this opportunity means leaving behind her family and entering a world torn by conflict with the terrifying Meduse alien race. As Binti embarks on her journey, she must confront dangers and confrontations that test her resilience.

Through her unique cultural perspective and encounters at the university, she strives to bridge the gap between humans and the Meduse. Binti is an engaging and thought-provoking exploration of identity, resilience, and understanding.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater is a captivating debut novel by Akwaeke Emezi that delves into the extraordinary journey of Ada, a young Nigerian woman with a fractured sense of self. Born with one foot on the other side, Ada develops multiple personalities within her as she navigates her troubled existence. Moving to America for college, a traumatic event triggers a shift, with her alternate selves taking control and Ada fading into the background.

As these selves – Asụghara and Saint Vincent – guide her life, the consequences become increasingly dark and perilous. Freshwater is a powerful exploration of identity, trauma, and the complex construction of the self.

Stay with Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

Stay with Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ is a powerful, award-winning debut novel set in Nigeria. It tells the story of Yejide and Akin, a married couple who have always agreed that polygamy is not for them. After four years of marriage, they have not been able to conceive, despite trying various remedies. Yejide’s hopes are crushed when her family arrives on her doorstep with a new bride for Akin.

Consumed by jealousy, Yejide becomes determined to get pregnant at whatever cost. The novel explores themes of sacrifice, family, jealousy, and the power dynamics within a marriage. Stay With Me is an emotional and unforgettable read.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue follows the story of Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, as he strives to create a better life for his family. When Jende secures a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers, he sees it as a stroke of luck. Along with his wife, Neni, they are presented with opportunities for temporary work and a chance to establish themselves in America.

However, as cracks appear in the lives of their privileged employers, the collapse of Lehman Brothers puts Jende’s job and their marriage at risk. In the face of tremendous upheaval, the Jongas are forced to make a difficult decision. Behold the Dreamers explores themes of immigration, class, and the pursuit of the American Dream in the backdrop of a life-altering financial crisis.

These books by African authors provide unique perspectives, rich cultural insights, and thought-provoking narratives. Have you read any of them? Let us know in the comments below!

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