Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary debut novel Homegoing is one of this summer’s most highly anticipated novels. The ambitious bestseller has garnered accolades as the “next great African novel” and “next great American novel.” The haunting story follows two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, born in eighteenth-century Ghana. Spanning seven generations, Homegoing explores the echoes of brutality across centuries. As one character ominously puts it, “sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your home.” Award-winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of last year’s critically acclaimed Between the World and Me, has called Homegoing “an inspiration.” With such high praise, we’re lining up for our copies.
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
A comical riff on Franz Kafka’s The Metaphorphosis, A. Igoni Barrett’s Blackass explores what happens when a Nigerian man goes “full oyibo” (Nigerian pidgin for “white person”). Protagonist Furo Wariboko wakes up one morning to discover that he’s become a white man. Readers follow Furo’s journey through the highs and lows of Lagos life as he navigates the realities of white privilege in Africa’s Gotham. While the exploration of Nigeria’s social norms is cutting, Barrett’s depictions of Lagos are the centerpiece of the novel. Where Adichie’s Americanah explored the life of Lagos elite, Barrett is fascinated by the city’s infamous hustlers.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Cameroonian Imbolo Mbue is a breath of fresh air in the Nigerian-dominated world of African literature. Set in Brooklyn, her debut novel Behold the Dreamers tells the tale of Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian chauffeur working at Lehman Brothers before the 2008 financial crisis. With rumors that Random House paid over one million dollars for this stunning first novel, expectations are high. The film has already been optioned by Tristar, a division of Sony Pictures.
Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John
Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday takes us to Northern Nigeria, a region well-known to newspapers, but under-covered in fiction. Touching on the fractures in society contributing to extremism, the novel explores the story of Dantala, a street boy who is forced to decide where his loyalties lie as his community is seduced by religious fundamentalism. Building on his reputation as a well-known cultural commentator and satirist, John crafts a sobering and insightful coming-of-age tale.
What is Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Oyeyemi’s collection of short stories highlights her strengths—her extraordinary imagination and penchant for playfulness. What is Yours is Not Yours navigates the magic of everyday life by marrying the tradition and modern in its exploration of identity. Whimsical as ever, Oyeyemi rejects convention in nine tales filled with everyone from an anxious ghost to a re-imagined Little Red Riding Hood.
Whitefly by Abdelilah Hamdouchi
Set in Tangier, Morocco, Whitefly is the first Arabic detective novel to be translated into English. Moroccan-born Hamdouchi is one of the first Arabic-language writers of police fiction. The Whitefly, originally published in 2000, is his third novel. While following the style of classic detective fiction, Whitefly is also a brooding exploration of contemporary Moroccan society, and the successes and failures of its judicial system.
Ladivine by Marie N’Diaye
If Chimamanda Adichie is the darling of Anglophone African literature, Marie N’Diaye is the contemporary Francophone queen. N’Diaye’s book Three Strong Women earned nearly universal acclaim and won the Prix Goncourt—one of the highest honors in French literature. Another novel, Rosie Carpe, took home the Prix Feminina. Yet despite these accolades, N’Diaye remains little known outside of her native France. Her latest novel-in-translation, Ladivine, follows three generations of immigrant women in France as they cope with the reverberations of a trauma they struggle to overcome.
The Reactive by Masande Ntshanga
The Reactive is a highly anticipated debut novel by one of South Africa’s most promising new voices. Masande Ntshanga won the inaugural PEN International New Voices Award in 2013, and was a finalist for the Caine Prize in 2015. The chapter-less novel is more concerned with themes than plot as Ntshanga tackles the rocky road in South Africa’s fight against HIV/AIDS. The novel centers around HIV-infected hustler named Lindanathi who lives in the Cape Town townships chasing his next high as he sells illegal drugs with his friends Ruan and Cecelia. As a mysterious man offers to purchase their entire stash, Ntshanga weaves a rollercoaster ride of a story that will leave you questioning the meaning of family, despair, and hope.
What are you reading this summer? Share your summer reads with us using #AyibaReads.