7 Classic Afro-Books By African Authors Your Bookshelf Needs
There is something African literature that has so much soul. There is no better time than now to dig it one, or Seven.
Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. That’s how i like my books: An old classic, a new book from emerging authors, a book borrowed from a good friend (which I might keep long enough and fool myself into thinking it’s actually mine..shhhh) and something blue-something to quiet my soul.
To begin this series, lets begin with ‘Something Old’.
If you’ve missed out on these African classics, or if you just need a quick walk down memory lane. Here are some Amazing classics, we should have on our bookshelves.
Thomas Mofolo, Chaka, 1925
Mofolo’s third and last book, Chaka, became the classic on which his reputation rests.
This novel is based on the real-life figure, also known as Shaka Zulu, who lived from 1787 to 1828. It is certainly more legend-story that historically accurate portrait, but Mofolo’s novel is built on the real-life foundations of Chaka’s life, rule, and death. It is also no fanciful hagiography: this Chaka is both hero and anti-hero.
Chaka has an insatiable thirst for power. Mofolo shows the origin and the price of that thirst.
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, 1958
No classic list is complete without Things Fall Apart.
THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.
This is a book of many contrasts; colonialism and traditional culture, animism and Christianity, the masculine and the feminine, and the ignorant and the aware
Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, Indaba, my children, 1964
According to the author, it is a collection of the folklore of the Bantu people, starting with unified mythology from the more Northern Africans and then breaking off into the specific lore of the Nguni and Mambo people who travelled South.
He begins with the creation myth, when Ninavanhu-Ma, the Great Mother, created the human race. From there, an epic unfolds, an intricate and vivid cultural tapestry populated by gods and mortals, cattle herders and supreme kings, witch doctors, lovers, grave diggers, warriors, and handmaidens. The story continues all the way up to the colonial era, when a Portuguese Kapitanoh and his crew arrive on the African shore. Indaba, My Children is a classic and indispensable resource for anyone interested in the cultural life of Africa and the human experience as it is filtered into myth.
Ngugi wa Thiongo, A Grain of Wheat, 1967
A Grain of Wheat centres a political narrative about the struggle for independence and liberation in Kenya; about rebellion against British imperialism.
Set in the wake of the Mau Mau rebellion and on the cusp of Kenya’s independence from Britain, A Grain of Wheat follows a group of villagers whose lives have been transformed by the 1952–1960 Emergency. At the center of it all is the reticent Mugo, the village’s chosen hero and a man haunted by a terrible secret. As we learn of the villagers’ tangled histories in a narrative interwoven with myth and peppered with allusions to real-life leaders, including Jomo Kenyatta, a masterly story unfolds in which compromises are forced, friendships are betrayed, and loves are tested.
Aminata Sow Fall, La Grève des bàttu (The Beggars’ Strike), 1979
The sight of disease-ridden beggars in the streets is giving the town a bad name, and the tourists are starting to stay away. If the Director of Public Health and Hygiene can get rid of them he will have done a great service to the health and economy of the nation – not to mention his own promotion prospects. A plan of military precision is put into action to rid the streets of these verminous scroungers.
But the beggars are organized, too.
Great parable of unintended consequences of not valuing people who don’t have the social status we think is desirable.
Mariama Bâ, Une si longue lettre, 1979
This novel is in the form of a letter, written by the widowed Ramatoulaye and describing her struggle for survival.
A woman in Senegal feels betrayed when her husband takes a second younger wife and she confides her misery to her friend who left her own husband when he took a second wife.This book looks at a woman’s place in African Islamic culture and the traditions of the villages.
Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions, 1988
It’s a coming of age story of Tambu, a teenage girl, who in the beginning lives in a small village with her parents and siblings and their days are hard, especially the women, who work in the fields all day, do the laundry at the river, transport water to and fro and cook in a kitchen that lacks modern conveniences and requires some skill and tenacity to manage. Despite the hard work Tambu loves her village and even the work and chores equally provide moments of pleasure and companionship.
This novel brings to the politics of decolonisation theory the energy of women’s rights. An extraordinarily well-crafted work, this book is a work of vision. Through its deft negotiation of race, class, gender and cultural change, it dramatises the ‘nervousness’ of the ‘postcolonial’ conditions that bedevil us still.