Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)
Feast on the best novels about Africa.
“Among the Igbo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.”
― Chinua Achebe,
Written by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun was published in 2006 by Knopf/Anchor. A novel about Africa, Half of a Yellow Sun specifically tells the story of the activities that took place in the Biafran War.
Conflicts between the Hausa and Igbo people resulted in massacres and food shortages. The author uses the characters Olanna, Ugwu and Richard to share how the civil war affected individuals, families and relationships.
Disgrace, J M Coetzee (1999)
Disgrace is a novel written by J.M. Coetzee and published in 1999. One of the best novels about Africa, Disgrace earned him the Booker Prize and a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. The novel tells the story of David Lurie’s fall from grace in post-apartheid South Africa. Disgrace serves well as an echo of what was currently happening in South Africa.
Lurie, by all intents and purposes, rapes one of his students and then when confronted is quite unrepentant. He is fired from his lecturing position at the university. He then moves to the countryside to live with his lesbian daughter. While living in the countryside, his daughter becomes the victim of three attackers, one of whom rapes her. The book ends with Lurie seeking forgiveness from the student he raped.
Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton (1948)
Written by Alan Patton, the novel Cry, the Beloved Country was published in 1948. American publisher Bennett Cerf acknowledged Cry, the Beloved Country as one of the best novels about African when he listed the book as one of three novels worth reading in the year 1948.
In the novel, Reverend Stephen Kumalo travels from his rural village to the city of Johannesburg. In Johannesburg, he convinces his sister who is a prostitute to move back to the village before he begins to search for his son. While searching for his son Absalom, he comes face to face with the racism and wide gap that exists between the rich and the poor. The novel serves to highlight the rigid social structures that existed in South Africa.
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
The Poisonwood Bible is one of the best novels about Africa. Written by Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible became a bestseller after its publication in 1998. The novel traces the lives of a missionary family as they move from the US to a village in the Belgian Congo. The events show their transition and how they adjust to the new changes wrought by the move.
My Traitor’s Heart, Rian Malan (1990)
My Traitor’s Heart is an autobiography that details Malan life in South Africa during the Apartheid-era. The book’s subtitle is South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe and His Conscience or Blood and Bad Dreams: A South African Exile Explores the Madness in His Country, His Tribe and Himself. He also reflects on his family’s history. He is from a prominent Afrikaner family that came to the Cape in the 17th century. His family also includes Daniel Francois Malan.
A Bend in the River, VS Naipaul (1979)
A Bend in the River is a 1979 novel by Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul. The Modern Library, in 1998, ranked the novel #83 on its list of the 100 best English language novels of the 20th century. One of the best books about Africa, A Bend in the River has received much literary acclaim.
Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih (1966)
Season of Migration to the North is one of the best novels about Africa written by novelist Tayeb Salih. The book has been translated into over twenty languages. The narrator after returning from pursuing a western education encounters Mustafa Sa’eed in his native village in Sudan.
Mustafa is not impressed by his achievements so he strives to find out everything about Mustafa. His search for knowledge leads him to become very entangled in Mustafa’s life. The book ends with him wishing fervently to be separate himself from Mustafa whose presence remains with him even in death.
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe (1958)
The great African author Chinua Achebe is the writer of the novel Things Fall Apart. Achebe uses the life of the protagonist Okonkwo to show the transitions that the traditions and culture of the Igbo people went through. The book begins by introducing us to Okwonkwo and his family.
The book transitions from the peaceful activities of everyday life in an African village to confusion and conflict that comes with the western encroachment on traditional African values. Okonkwo is, however, unable to part from his traditional beliefs and so he tragically kills himself when he is unable to come to terms with the new way of life.
What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, Dave Eggers (2006)
What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng is a novel written by Dave Eggers. Through published in 2006, literary critics recognize this novel as one of the best novels about Africa.
During the Second Sudanese Civil War, Achak becomes separated from his family. After successfully evading the militia, he joins a group of boys who through many struggles as they make their way to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Later he goes to the US where he encounters a whole new set of struggles.
The Bride Price, Buchi Emecheta (1976)
In 1976, Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta received the first publication of her book The Bride Price. The novel Bride Price highlighted the issues of Nigerian women after independence. UK publishing house, Allison & Busby and US publisher George Braziller recognized The Bride Price as one of the best books written about Africa and subsequently pushed it in their respective countries.
In the novel, the Igbo girl Aku-nna and her brother returns to the village of Ibuza after their father dies. In Ibuza, Aku-nna starts to get the attention of suitors. Aku-nna is in love with her teacher, Chike, but is unable to marry him because he descends from slaves. They eventually elope but instead of receiving a happily ever after, Aku-nna dies while giving birth to their daughter whom Chike names Joy.