The 5th -11th December was Reading Africa Week (a project started by Catalyst Press in 2017 as an annual celebration of African literature during the first full week of December) and there seemed like no better time to share some of the incredible books by African authors we’ve recently enjoyed - many of them Love Reading Star Books, and a number selected as Book Club Recommendations of the Month. With outstanding voices from a huge array of African nations, and works ranging from coming-of-age masterworks and inspiring autobiographies, to inventive thrillers and thought-provoking literary fiction, this Collection promises richly rewarding reading experiences for all tastes.
Femi Kayode’s Nigeria-set Lightseekers was a huge hit here at Love Reading - a Liz Robinson Pick and a Star Book no less. Liz described it as “an intelligent, brooding yet vibrant crime thriller debut that just thrums with atmosphere”. Staying in Nigeria, LoveReading’s MD, Deborah Maclaren, adored The Girl With the Louding Voice, describing it as “a beautiful book about an incredible 14 year old girl and the relationships she makes on her path to find her louding voice”.
The Bead Collector is another Nigeria-set stunner. Evoking personal and political identities in mid-seventies Lagos, this is a novel that’ll make you think while grabbing your heart. Similarly, The Dragonfly Sea will be cherished by readers who like being swept away by story worlds. Traversing Kenya, China and Turkey, it’s a lyrical, nature-infused coming-of-age tour de force.
Heading now to Ethiopia, Unbury Our Dead with Song - part road-trip, part journey of the soul - is an utterly unique story centred around a soulful form of Ethiopian music, while The Shadow King relates the stories of Ethiopian women who went to war against Mussolini’s army in 1935.
Moving to South Africa, we adored Angela Makholwa’s The Blessed Girl. Driven by an unforgettable heroine, this novel balances exploring big issues with tremendous wit and a delicious style that dances off the page. Staying in South Africa (but entirely different in style and subject) Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who is Not a Man tells the extraordinarily moving story of a young man’s harrowing rite of passage experience.
Powerful diaspora experiences are explored in some of our favourite novels too, among them Men Don’t Cry. Selected as one of our Book Club Recommendations (with a set of questions ready and waiting for reading groups to discuss), this lays bare the pull between one’s land of heritage and one’s land of birth, in this case between Algeria and France.
We’ve also highlighted some excellent works of non-fiction. New Daughters of Africa presents the writings of 200+ women of African heritage (among them academics and activists, novelists and filmmakers, poets and politicians), while Afropean is a remarkable work of reportage that reveals the diverse experiences of African-origin Europeans. Finally, for an inspiring feast of feel-good autobiography, My Name is Tani tells the true tale of a boy who became a US chess champion after his family fled Boko Haram.