Africa has rich literary talent that encompasses nations from Nigeria to Kenya, and cities from Cape Town to Cairo. Millions of children grew up reading the wise words of our kinsmen, and modern African literature, such as Chimamonzi Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, has become increasingly popular in international reading circles. In celebration of the boom in written literature from Africans on the continent and in the diaspora, here are some African authors that you should definitely add to your home library.
Chigozie Obioma – Nigerian
What to read: The Fishermen
Considering that Obioma won the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Award, it is no wonder then that his first book, The Fishermen, has been shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. It is told from the point of view of the youngest of four brothers and explains how a violent prophecy from the local madman shatters their worlds.
Chinelo Okparanta – Nigerian-American
What to read: Happiness, Like Water
Okparanta’s novel explores Nigerian women at home and in the United States, where they struggle with difficult decisions surrounding their happiness She has received numerous commendations from the literary world and won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction in 2014.
Tendai Huchu – Zimbabwean
What to read: The Hairdresser of Harare
The novel tells the story of Vimbai, a talented hairdresser, and her complex relationship with a mysterious and charming young man. Huchu received a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Sacatar Fellowship in 2013, and was shortlisted for a Caine Prize in 2014.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi – Kenyan
What to read: How Kamau Wa Mwangi Escaped into Exile
Mukoma Wa Ngugi, son of the renowned Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, is a poet and writer and is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University. How Kamau Wa Mwangi Escaped into Exile was shortlisted for the 2009 Caine Prize and is included in the Caine Prize anthology Work in Progress – And Other Stories.
Maaza Mengiste – Ethiopian-American
What to read: Beneath the Lion’s Gaze
The award-winning Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells the story of the Ethiopian coup that toppled Emperor Haile Sellasie. Mengiste also recently completed a documentary project, Girl Rising, that included narration from such celebrities as Alicia Keys and Meryl Streep.
Okey Ndibe – Nigerian
What to read: Foreign Gods, Inc.
Foreign Gods, Inc. tells the story of a Nigerian cab driver in New York who plans on stealing a statue from his village in Nigeria and subsequently selling it to an art gallery in The Big Apple. Ndibe is a professor at Brown University and is considered a strong voice in modern African literature.
NoViolet Bulawayo – Zimbabwean
What to read: We Need New Names
Bulawayo was shortlisted the 2013 Man Booker Prize for the novel We Need New Names, which tells the hilarious tale of Darling, a young girl who grows up in Zimbabwe and then moves to the United States as a teenager.
Lola Shoneyin – Nigerian
What to read: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Shoneyin’s novel tells the complicated story of a patriarch and his four wives, the newest of which has failed to conceive. The book won the 2011 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, and was long listed for the 2011 Orange Prize.
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor – Kenyan
What to read: Dust
Dust is set in Kenya in 2007, when the hotly contested presidential elections resulted in chaos. It talks about the death of Odidi, the head of a criminal gang, and how his family must travel to the arid region of Turkana to bury him. The book won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 2015.
Nii Ayikwei Parkes – Ghanaian-British
What to read: Tail of the Blue Bird
Tail of the Blue Bird touches on the tale of a Ghanaian village that has remained unchanged for thousands of years, a fact that is soon shattered when the possible remains of a human are found, and a pathologist is sent to investigate it. Parkes was named part of Hay Festival’s Africa39 project in 2014.