4 Favourite Books Written by African Authors

I’ve been thinking this week about the type of blog entries that I enjoy reading. Posts that stand out the most to me are entries featuring some sort of list or the potential for discovering amazing new books and fascinating reads. I quite enjoy it when Nikki does it as well.

As such I’m going to attempt to share some of my regional or plain ol’ quirky favourites that I enjoyed reading and maybe a few that I would like for read myself! Each book will be led by a small review or personal reflection.

4 Favourite Books Written by African Authors

The Thing Around Your Neck

I’ve never done a review for this book and that’s mostly because I read it as a teenager but I remember that it had such a big impact on me. It was one of those books where after I just lay in bed curled around it, not wanting to move because I didn’t want to lose the spell that was placed on me. Adichie is a popular author who has made the press many times for her eloquent and thoughtful position on a range of topics, from racism to feminism.

I highly recommend listening to her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story

Blurb: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as “one of the best novels to come out of Africa in years” (Baltimore Sun), with “prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes” (The Boston Globe); The Washington Post called her “the twenty-first-century daughter of Chinua Achebe.” Her award-winning Half of a Yellow Sun became an instant classic upon its publication three years later, once again putting her tremendous gifts—graceful storytelling, knowing compassion, and fierce insight into her characters’ hearts—on display. Now, in her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.

Nervous Conditions (Nervous Conditions #1)

I read this during a very moody time in my life, I felt caught between many cultures (I’m essentially a 3rd culture kid) and this book was impactful in that it cautioned the dangers of alienation. I don’t think that this book by Tsitsi Dangarembga  gets enough credit actually- it’s a brilliant read that’s well written and the narrator and characters are well fleshed out. It is centred on a focal time for our protagonist, on the cusp of womanhood, about to leave girldom, what more can you ask for? It’s set in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s and shows us that sometimes what we wish for the most can sometimes hurt us just as much.

Blurb: This stunning first novel, set in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s, centers on the coming of age of a teenage girl, Tambu, and her relationship with her British-educated cousin Nyasha. Tambu, who yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village, especially the circumscribed lives of the women, thinks her dreams have come true when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her education. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price. At the school she meets the worldly and rebellious Nyasha, who is chafing under her father’s authority. Raised in England, Nyasha is so much a stranger among her own people that she can no longer speak her native language. Tambu can only watch as her cousin, caught between two cultures, pays the full cost of alienation.


I’m assuming that most of the readers here will have heard of Wangari Maathai, if not please go google her! In a nutshell, Unbowed is Maathai’s memoir of struggle and triumph. She is most famously known for starting the Green Belt Movement.

This was one of the first nonfiction books that I read willingly in my first year of IB (everyone was reading nonfiction and curled their lip at my fictional loves, so I felt chagrined into doing it too! However, it worked out because I realised that I did have a strange affection for memoirs by women and micro history examinations and cultural historical pieces). What struck me was the perspective in this book, Maathai lovingly details all aspects of her life lending the book an excellent perspective of what it was like to be a woman and to grow up in the US and Kenya. This book was my first exposure to this thought and even now I do think that in literature and in extension, life, we are too quick to judge others or take little time to understand the things that have gone into developing their perspective. You don’t have to agree with the person but understanding is a great way to bridge communication. Basically, go read this book. It’s a fun and interesting memoir.

The Guardian did a good review of her book, as well as two others by prominent female African writers. I recommend reading more about the Green Belt Movement as well!

Blurb: Hugely charismatic, humble, and possessed of preternatural luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and a single mother of three, recounts her extraordinary life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya.

Born in a rural village in 1940, Wangari Maathai was already an iconoclast as a child, determined to get an education even though most girls were uneducated. We see her studying with Catholic missionaries, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States, and becoming the first woman both to earn a PhD in East and Central Africa and to head a university department in Kenya. We witness her numerous run-ins with the brutal Moi government. She makes clear the political and personal reasons that compelled her, in 1977, to establish the Green Belt Movement, which spread from Kenya across Africa and which helps restore indigenous forests while assisting rural women by paying them to plant trees in their villages. We see how Maathai’s extraordinary courage and determination helped transform Kenya’s government into the democracy in which she now serves as assistant minister for the environment and as a member of Parliament. And we are with her as she accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in recognition of her “contribution to sustainable development, human rights, and peace.”

Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight

This was my pre-college read, assigned for the incoming class. I do remember that this book caused a whole hell of controversy and eventually (after I read it of course), we were instead assigned Persepolis which I also greatly enjoyed. I still don’t fully understand why it caused such a great deal of controversy.

Getting back to that thing, perspective, I thought that this was an interesting although troubling addition to a differing perspective of Africa. Another memoir, it charts Alexandra Fuller’s life growing up in colonial Rhodesia in a relative position of power as a white woman. However, as the book goes on you see that this notion of a cut and dry understanding of power and privilege isn’t as accurate or black and white as you may assume. The book is ultimately heart wrenching and shows the dangers not only of nepotism but an unjust government- no matter what your race.

Blurb: In Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with candor and sensitivity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller’s endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate. Fuller’s debut is unsentimental and unflinching but always captivating. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she stares down disaster and looks back with rage and love at the life of an extraordinary family in an extraordinary time.

Want To Read: Coconut 

I haven’t read this but I have to add it to my list. In doing research in the past it has often come up as a good and solid read, if not a bit obscure. What attracted me to it was the title, Coconut, which is an accusatory and not so good word in The Bahamas once landed on a person. So I’m wondering if it might be the same?

Blurb: Debut novel about growing up black in white suburbs, where the cost of fitting in can be your very identity. Redefining what it means to be young, black and beautiful in the the New South Africa. Winner of the European Union Literary Award. 

Have you read any of these? Or will you go read one?



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
This entry was posted in International, Lists and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 4 Favourite Books Written by African Authors

  1. I’m really excited to read something by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. I have Americanah on my TBR!

  2. barefootmegz says:

    Yes, Coconut is incredible! And the Title does indeed refer to the derogatory accusation of being “black on the outside, white on the inside”.

  3. Tammy says:

    I have to admit these are all new to me except Don’t Let’s Go… which I’ve actually got a copy of but haven’t read. I love reading about other cultures though, especially when the authors are indigenous to that country. I’ll be sure to check some of these out!

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