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6 African books that should be in your ‘to be read’ list

Africa has always been rooted in story telling - grandparents carried tales and folklores passed down from generation to generation way before pen and paper was invented. Most African stories were centred around myths and legends that are unique to our story and culture and had important life lesson. Over the years African literature have shown incredible capabilities to compete amongst global literary, from the Nigerian giant Chinua Acheba, to South Africa’s beloved Zakes Mda - Africa’s contribution to literary has opened doors for new and upcoming authors to tell African stories unapologetically.

We have rounded six books by African authors that should be on your to be read list.

This Earth, My Brother by Kofi Awoonor

Rooted in the African oral tradition, This Earth, My Brother paints a picture of post independent Ghana through two distinctive narratives. In the first strand, we find Amamu, a young lawyer struggling to come to terms with his place amongst the new Ghanaian elite. Frustrated by the debauchery of his peers, and the misery engulfing the country, he decides to leave. During his journey across Europe, Amamu is gripped with a different kind of spiritual alienation – one that he can’t run away from.

Bridging the gaps between Amamu’s story are chapters of rich prose poetry that tell an allegorical tale of new Ghana. From religious suffering to mermaids, Kofi Awoonor lyrically captures the inner workings of a man’s disturbed conscience and the conflicting realities of Ghana’s independence.

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Black Sunlight by Dambudzo Marechera

In this dark and deeply radical novel, Dambudzo Marechera offers a visceral account of a photojournalist's entanglement with a terrorist organisation. In an unnamed totalitarian state, the members of Black Sunlight – a group of violent anarchists – are the only ones fighting for change and justice. As their actions push the country further towards chaos, journalist Christian records it all through the lens of his camera.

Christian's life so far has been one of immense struggle and alienation. So when he becomes tangled in the Black Sunlight uprising, he is determined to remain a bystander and nothing more; to capture their actions without praise or condemnation.

In evocative flashes of sex, violence, war, and myth, Christian's story explodes in a labyrinthine plot, told through a chaotic stream-of-consciousness that mirrors the nation's crumbling climate. Black Sunlight is a piercing insight into the darkness of the human psyche and a raw examination of a nation in battle against itself – where everything political turns deeply personal.

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A walk in the Night by Alex La Guma

In this previously banned collection of seven short stories, Alex La Guma vividly reveals the plight of the poor and oppressed in apartheid South Africa.Characterised by his striking style and colourful dialogue, La Guma’s stories explore experiences of racism and social inequality in various settings, from an overcrowded prison to a Portuguese restaurant. In the title story, ‘A Walk in the Night’, a factory worker loses his job after an argument with a white supervisor. His subsequent descent into helpless rage is played out in rich detail, illuminating the toxic effects of poverty, police brutality, and gang violence. Each story in the collection lays bare the struggles of those living in 1960s South Africa, offering poignant moments of hope and cementing Alex La Guma as one of the most important writers of his time.

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Wings of Dust by Jamal Mahjoub

In this brilliantly clever fictionalised memoir, award-winning author Jamal Mahjoub interrogates how the first generation of Northern Sudanese citizens undertook the momentous task of creating a newly independent nation.

Exiled in a dilapidated hotel in South-West France, Sharif looks back on his rich and eventful life to date. Memories of a bohemian existence in England and France – a time of love affairs and excess – clash with more recent memories of navigating the volatile and unprecedented political situation in North Africa. With wry wit, Sharif recalls the wealth of extraordinary characters who have passed through his life and tries to make sense of an existence lived in disarray

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We Are Together Because by Kerry Andrew

Luke, Connor, Thea and Violet spend their first holiday together alone in their father's house in France. The boys don't really know him - he left their mother when she was still pregnant with Connor, getting together with the girls' mother soon afterwards - and they don't really know their half-sisters, either. Luke, the eldest and most easy going of the four, is keen to bring a new shape to their overlapping, unconventional family; Connor and Thea, born just six months apart but a world of difference between them, are attracted to each other, something they try not to acknowledge but which keeps pushing its way to the surface; Violet, the youngest, is trying to figure some things out about herself, and trying desperately to forget others.

Sex, in its multiple pleasurable divergences and forms, disturbances and abuses, is on the minds of all of the siblings during the hot, lethargic summer days next to the pool. Meanwhile the land is responding and reacting to something inexplicable and eerie. There is a sound, a strong buzzing tonal undercurrent that only Connor can hear, and when Violet one night sees a plane light abruptly drop and disappear in the night sky, it signals the unsettling beginning of something that threatens so much more than their turbulent holiday...

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Sozaboy by Ken Saro-Wiwa

Sozaboy powerfully describes the fate of a young, naive soldier thrown into the frontline of a civil war, from his first proud days of recruitment to the disillusionment and horrors that follow.

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Mene yearns for manhood. He dreams of gaining the glory that the ex-soldier in his village brags about, with his stories of hunting ‘Hitla’. So when war breaks out and soldiers appear in Mene’s isolated village, he sees his chance to finally wear a uniform. Too soon, however, Mene’s innocence turns to terror. While witnessing the unfathomable, Mene must learn to evade the carnage of warfare if he wants to make it home alive...

Writing in Nigerian Pidgin English, Ken Saro-Wiwa creates a unique window into the dark consequences of meaningless war.

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