50 Books By African Women That Everyone Should Read: Part 2

by - 07:19

Last week on the Gateway for Africa Blog, the first 25 on our list of '50 Books by African Women That Everyone Should Read' .... before they die was published. Today, ahead of Africa writes - the Royal African Society's annual literary festival taking place this weekend - I publish the final part of the list, which I compiled together with Dele Meiji Fatunla.

Lists are fun to make, but they are also sometimes quite hard to make, especially this one where we had to choose 50 books. In putting this list together, Dele and I found that we had some obvious choices and overlaps, but we also brought to the list our own perspectives. And that's what I loved about putting it together, as through this list of 50, it begins to show some of the diversity and wonders of African literature written by women. As mentioned in the first post, although this list is mainly filled with novels, there is also non-fiction and poetry. 

Part 2 of the list has works from Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the diaspora. There are stories about email scams, sex workers and young love, but there is also a travel memoir and YA fiction in the form of fantasy. This is in no way an exhaustive list (and what's 'missing' could lead to some very interesting conversations). It is, however, a list of books which we both hope you will read, enjoy and share amongst your friends, family and loved ones. 
So join the conversation about the full list on the Africa Writes and Gateway for Africa facebook page, and mine as well. Happy reading!!!

26. Your Madness, Not Mine

About the Author: Juliana Makuchi: Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi is Professor of English and Comparative Literature. She holds doctorates from the University of Yaounde, Cameroon, and from McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Her research is in Postcolonial and World Literatures, Literary Theory, Gender and Women’s Studies. She has lectured nationally and internationally in these fields. Her extensive publications include three books: Gender in African Women’s Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference (Indiana University Press), Your Madness, Not Mine: Stories of Cameroon (Ohio University Press) and The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba (Ohio University Press). She writes fiction under the pen name, Makuchi.

About the book: The short stories in this collection represent the yearnings and vision of an Anglophone woman, who writes both as a Cameroonian and as a woman whose life has been shaped by the minority status her people occupy within the nation-state. The stories in Your Madness, Not Mine are about postcolonial Cameroon - women, more often than not, are at the centre of these stories that probe their day-to-day experiences of survival and empowerment as they deal with gender oppression: from patriarchal expectations to the malaise of maldevelopment, unemployment, and the attraction of the West for young Cameroonians.

27. Neighbours: The Story of a Murder
About the Author: Lilia Momplé was born on the Island of Mozambique, into a family of mixed ethnic origins, including Makua, French, Indian, Chinese, and Mauritian. She attended the Instituto Superior de Serviço Social (Higher Institute of Social Service) in Lisbon and graduated with a degree in Social Services. In 1995, she became secretary general of the Association of Mozambican Authors, a position she held until 2001.

About the Book: Neighbours: The Story of A Murder focuses on the destabilisation of Mozambique through short narratives detailing the lives and motivations of seven central characters. Part of the Heinemann African Writers Series, and later the Penguin African Writers series, Neighbours tells the political story of a nation, which is often forgotten by the West, in a thoughtful and provocative manner. This is the story of how a South African conspiracy to infiltrate and destabilise Mozambique creates tragedy for ordinary people.

28. Ripples in the Pool
About the Author: Rebeka Njau was a Kenyan artist, playwright and novelist born in a village near the city of Nairobi in Kenya. She was educated at the Alliance Girls High School and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and taught at Alliance Girls High School and Makerere College School before spending five years as the founding headmistress of Nairobi Girls School. It was during her career as a teacher that she started writing short stories and plays, most of which were published in Transitions, a literary journal in East Africa in the 1960s. From 1975-1990 she worked with the National Council of Churches of Kenya and was editor of its fortnightly newspaper, Target. When she was growing up, her mother, a Christian evangelist in the 1950s, and her maternal grandfather, a medicine man and a specialised blacksmith, became her greatest source of inspiration.

About the Book: In 1975, Njau published her first novel Ripples in the Pool, a work exploring the struggle between the politics of modernity and the claims of old systems of belief. It tells the story of Selina, an unconventional woman by her society's standards. who craves to have a man she can manipulate. 

29. Efuru
About the Author: Flora Nwapa was a Nigerian writer, teacher, and administrator, a forerunner of a whole generation of African women writers. Flora Nwapa is best-known for re-creating Igbo (Ibo) life and traditions from a woman's viewpoint. With Efuru (1966) Nwapa became black Africa's first internationally published female novelist in the English language. She has been called the mother of modern African literature

About the Book: The book is about Efuru, an Ibo woman who lives in a small village in colonial West Africa. Throughout the story, Efuru wishes to be a mother, though she is an independent-minded woman and respected for her trading ability.

30. I Do Not Come To You By Chance
About the Author: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is a Nigerian novelist and journalist. I Do Not Come to You by Chance, her debut novel set amidst the perilous world of Nigerian email scams was the winner of the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book (Africa). She lives in Lagos, and works with Nigeria's groundbreaking NEXT newspaper

About the Book: A deeply moving debut novel set amid the perilous world of Nigerian email scams, I Do Not Come to You by Chance tells the story of one young man and the family who loves him.

31. The Promised Land
About the Author: Grace Ogot is one of the few well-known woman writers in Kenya, Ogot was the first woman to have fiction published by the East African Publishing House. Her stories—which appeared in European and African journals such as Black Orpheus and Transition and in collections such as Land Without Thunder (1968), The Other Woman (1976), and The Island of Tears (1980)—give an inside view of traditional Luo life and society and the conflict of traditional with colonial and modern cultures. Her novel The Promised Land (1966) tells of Luo pioneers in Tanzania and western Kenya.

About the Book: A young farmer and his wife who have migrated to Tanzania from Kenya become embroiled in issues of personal jealousy and materialism, and a melodramatic tale of tribal hatreds ensues. The novel explores Ogot's concept of the ideal African wife: obedient and submissive to her husband; family and community orientated; and committed to non-materialist goals.

32. Bitter Leaf
About the Author: Chioma Okereke was born in Nigeria and came to England at the age of seven. She started her writing career as a poet before turning her hand to fiction. Her writing has been published in Bum Rush the Page and The Callaloo Literary Journal. Additionally, her work has been shortlisted in the Undiscovered Authors Competition 2006, run by Bookforce UK, and in the Daily Telegraph's, write a Novel in a Year Competition 2007.

About the Book: Bitter Leaf is a richly textured and intricate novel set in Mannobe, a world that is African in nature but never geographically placed. At the heart of the novel is the village itself and its colourful cast of inhabitants: Babylon, a gifted musician who falls under the spell of the beautiful Jericho who has recently returned from the city; Mabel and Melle Codon, twin sisters whose lives have taken very different paths, Magdalena, daughter of Mabel, who nurses an unrequited love for Babylon and Allegory, the wise old man who adheres to tradition. As lives and relationships change and Mannobe is challenged by encroaching development, the fragile web of dependency holding village life together is gradually revealed.

33. Zahrah the Windseeker
About the Author: Nnedi Okorafor, the American-born daughter of Igbo Nigerian parents, has regularly visited Nigeria since she was very young. Her novels and stories reflect both her West African heritage and her American life. Okorafor is a 2001 graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop in Lansing, Michigan, and holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is a professor of creative writing at Chicago State University and lives with her family in Illinois.

About the Book: Zahrah the Windseeker is one of a very small handful of young adult fantasy novels that incorporate the myths and folklore and culture of West Africa. It is the winner of the 2008 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. Set in the northern Ooni Kingdom, fear of the unknown runs deep and children born dada are rumoured to have special powers. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal girl - she grows her own flora computer, has mirrors sewn onto her clothes and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. But unlike other children in the village of Kirki, Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. 

34. The Spider King’s Daughter
About the Author: Chibundu Onuzo was born in Nigeria in 1991 and is the youngest of four children. In 2010, Onuzo, then an undergraduate studying History at King's College London, made headlines after signing a two-novel deal with Faber & Faber, making her its youngest ever female author . When not writing, Chibundu can be found playing the piano or singing. 

About the book: Seventeen-year-old Abike Johnson is the favourite child of her wealthy father. She lives in a She lives in a sprawling mansion in Lagos, protected by armed guards and ferried everywhere in a huge black jeep. But being her father's favourite comes with uncomfortable duties, and she is often lonely behind the high walls of her house. A world away from Abike's mansion, in the city's slums, lives a seventeen-year-old hawker struggling to make sense of the world. His family lost everything after his father's death and now he runs after cars on the roadside selling ice cream to support his mother and sister. When Abike buys ice cream from the hawker one day, they strike up an unlikely and tentative romance, defying the prejudices of Nigerian society. But as they grow closer, revelations from the past threaten their relationship and both Abike and the hawker must decide where their loyalties lie.

35. Dust
About the Author: Yvonne Adhiambor Owuor is a Kenyan writer, who was named "Woman of the Year" by Eve Magazine in Kenya in 2004 for her contribution to the country's literature and arts. She won the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story "Weight of Whispers", which considers an aristocratic Rwandan refugee in Kenya. The story was originally published in Kwani?, the Kenyan literary magazine set up by Binyavanga Wainaina after he won the Caine Prize the previous year.

About the Book: From a breath-taking new voice, a novel about a splintered family in Kenya—a story of power and deceit, unrequited love, survival and sacrifice.
Odidi Oganda, running for his life, is gunned down in the streets of Nairobi. His grief-stricken sister, Ajany, just returned from Brazil, and their father bring his body back to their crumbling home in the Kenyan dry lands, seeking some comfort and peace. But the murder has stirred memories long left untouched and unleashed a series of unexpected events: Odidi and Ajany’s mercurial mother flees in a fit of rage; a young Englishman arrives at the Ogandas’ house, seeking his missing father; a hardened policeman who has borne witness to unspeakable acts reopens a cold case; and an all-seeing Trader with a murky identity plots an overdue revenge. In scenes stretching from the violent upheaval of contemporary Kenya back through a shocking political assassination in 1969 and the Mau Mau uprisings against British colonial rule in the 1950s, we come to learn the secrets held by this parched landscape, buried deep within the shared past of the family and of a conflicted nation.

36. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
About the Author: Lola Shoneyin is a Nigerian poet and author who published her debut novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, in the UK in May 2009. Shoneyin has already forged a reputation as an adventurous, humorous and outspoken poet (often classed in the feminist mould), having published three volumes of poetry. In April 2014 she was named on the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define trends in African literature. She lives in Abuja, Nigeria.

About the Book: To the dismay of her ambitious mother, Bolanle marries into a polygamous family, where she is the fourth wife of a rich, rotund patriarch, Baba Segi. She is a graduate and therefore a great prize, but even graduates must produce children and her husband's persistent bellyache is a sign that things are not as they should be. Bolanle is too educated for the 'white garment conmen' Baba Segi would usually go to for fertility advice, so he takes her to hospital to discover the cause of her barrenness. Weaving the voices of Baba Segi and his four competing wives into a portrait of a clamorous household of twelve, Lola Shoneyin evokes an extraordinary Nigerian family in splashes of vibrant colour.

37. The Map of Love
About the Author: Ahdaf Soueif was born in Cairo and educated in Egypt and England, where she studied for a Ph.D. at the University of Lancaster. Ahdaf Soueif lives in London and Cairo. She writes regularly for The Guardian and is a key political commentator on Egypt and Palestine. She is the founder of the Palestine Festival of Literature, Pal Fest.

About the Book: In 1900 Lady Anna Winterbourne travels to Egypt where she falls in love with Sharif, and Egyptian Nationalist utterly committed to his country's cause. A hundred years later, Isabel Parkman, an American divorcee and a descendant of Anna and Sharif, goes to Egypt, taking with her an old family trunk, inside which are found notebooks and journals which reveal Anna and Sharif's secret.

38. This September Sun
About the Author: Bryony Rheam was born in Kadoma, Zimbabwe, in 1974 and grew up in small mining towns until her family finally moved to Bulawayo. She left Zimbabwe at the age of eighteen and went to the UK, where she worked and studied for seven years. After completing her MA at the University of Kent at Canterbury, she taught in Singapore for a year and then decided to return to Zimbabwe in 2001. She currently lives in Ndola, Zambia, where she is a part-time English teacher. She is currently working on her second novel.

About the Book: Winner of Best First Book Award at Zimbabwe International Book Fair 2010. Ellie is a shy girl growing up in post-Independence Zimbabwe, longing for escape from the confines of small-town life. When she eventually moves to Britain, her wish seems to have come true. But life there is not all she imagined. And when her grandmother Evelyn is brutally murdered, a set of diaries are uncovered spilling out family secrets and recounting a young Evelyn's passionate and dangerous affair with a powerful married man. In the light of new discoveries, Ellie begins to re-evaluate her relationship with her grandmother, and must face up to some truths about herself in the process. Set against the backdrop of a country in change, Ellie burdened by the memories and the misunderstandings of the past must also find a way to move forward in her own romantic endeavours.

39. Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories
About the Author: Alifa Rifaat was an Egyptian author whose controversial short stories are renowned for their depictions of the dynamics of female sexuality, relationships, and loss in rural Egyptian culture. While taking on such controversial subjects Fatimah Rifaat’s protagonists remained religiously faithful and passive feelings towards their fate. Fatimah Rifaat used the pseudonym Alifa to prevent embarrassment on the part of her family due to the themes of her stories and her writing career.

About the Book: More convincingly than any other woman writing in Arabic today, Alifa Rifaat, an Egyptian, lifts the veil on what it means to be a woman living within a traditional Muslim society. Her writing articulates a subtle revolt against, and a sympathetic insight into, the place of women in the essentially male-dominated Islamic environment. Change, development, and understanding are called for but the invocation is couched in specifically Arab terms; her inspiration lies not in the Women's Movement of the West but remains within a strictly religious, even Orthodox Qur'anic framework.

40. As the Crow Flies 

About the Author: Véronique  Tadjo is a writer, poet, novelist, and artist from Côte d'Ivoire. Having lived and worked in many countries within the African continent and diaspora, she feels herself to be pan-African, in a way that is reflected in the subject matter, imagery and allusions of her work.

About the Book: This ground-breaking novel represents a set of universal experiences which can be read as a mosaic of life in the 20th century. As The Crow Flies describes the way in which the text is written; Tadjo flies over different lives and experiences - as a crow does - occasionally swooping down on one small detail or character, moving between relationships in search of truth

41. The Blind Kingdom (also by Véronique Tadjo)
About the Book: This multi-layered narrative comprises a series of interwoven short stories and poetic texts which can be read within continental Africa, the African Diaspora and beyond. Véronique Tadjo imagines an African society on the brink of total collapse, yet there is no doubt that the story resonates in unsettling ways with recent political and social unrest in Côte d´Ivoire. This is a lyrical and yet haunting story, a book of love with fresh insights into the unfinished and complex struggles for African independence.

42. On Black Sisters Street
About the Author: Chika Unigwe is a Nigerian-born author of fiction, poetry and articles based in Belgium who writes in both English and Dutch. In April 2014 she was selected for the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature.

About the Book: Four very different women have made their way from Africa to Brussels. They have come to claim for themselves the riches they believe Europe promises but when Sisi, the most enigmatic of the women, is murdered, their already fragile world is shattered. Drawn together by tragedy, the remaining three women - Joyce, a great beauty whose life has been destroyed by war; Ama, whose dark moods manifest a past injustice; Efe, whose efforts to earn her keep are motivated by a particular zeal - slowly begin to share their stories.

43. Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria
About the Author: Noo Saro-Wiwa was born in Nigeria in 1976 and raised in England. She attended King's College London and Columbia University in New York and has written travel guides for Rough Guide and Lonely Planet. She currently lives in London. Her first book Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria was published by Granta in January 2012 to brilliant reviews and was chosen by the Financial Times Life & Arts as one of the best books of the year, and by The Sunday Times as Travel Book of the Year 2012.

About the Book: Noo Saro-Wiwa was brought up in England, but every summer she was dragged back to Nigeria - a country she viewed as an annoying parallel universe where she had to relinquish all her creature comforts. Then her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was murdered there, and she didn't return for 10 years. Recently, she decided to come to terms with the country her father loved. She travelled from the exuberant chaos of Lagos to the calm beauty of the eastern mountains; from the eccentricity of a Nigerian dog show to the empty Transwonderland Amusement Park. Looking for Transwonderland is an engaging portrait of a country whose beauty and variety few of us will experience, depicted with wit and insight by a refreshing new voice in contemporary travel writing.

44. Butterfly Burning

About the Author: Yvonne Vera was an award-winning author from Zimbabwe. Her novels are known for their poetic prose, difficult subject-matter, and their strong women characters, and are firmly rooted in Zimbabwe's difficult past. For these reasons, she has been widely studied and appreciated by those studying postcolonial African literature.

About the Book: Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late l940s, Butterfly Burning is an intensely bittersweet love story. When Fumbatha, a construction worker, meets the much younger Phephelaphi, he “wants her like the land beneath his feet from which birth had severed him." He in turn fills her "with hope larger than memory." But Phephelaphi is not satisfied with their "one-room" love alone. The qualities that drew Fumbatha to her, her sense of independence and freedom, end up separating them. And the closely woven fabric of township life, where everyone knows everyone else, has a mesh too tight and too intricate to allow her to escape her circumstances on her own. Vera exploits language to peel away the skin of public and private lives. In Butterfly Burning she captures the ebullience and the bitterness of township life, as well as the strength and courage of her unforgettable heroine.

45. Nehanda (also by Yvonne Vera)
About the Book: Set in Yvonne Vera's home country of Zimbabwe, Nehanda tells the story of a late nineteenth century village where a young woman has been given a divine calling: the gift to inspire a war. Told in beautifully lucid and evocative prose, this is the portrait of resistance and struggle, a tale of a people's first meeting with colonialism. 

46. Teaching my Mother How to Give Birth 
About the AuthorWarsan Shire was born in 1988 in Kenya to Somali parents. She later emigrated to London. Shire thereafter began writing poetry as a way to connect with her Somali heritage and her roots in Somalia. Her verse first gained notice after her poem "For Women Who Are Difficult to Love" went viral. In 2011, she also released Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, a poetry pamphlet published by flipped eye. In April 2013, Shire was presented with Brunel University's inaugural African Poetry Prize, an award earmarked for poets who have yet to publish a full-length poetry collection. She was chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries. In October 2013, Shire was also selected from a shortlist of six young bards as the first Young Poet Laureate for London. The honour is part of the London Legacy Development Corporation's Spoke programme, which focuses on promoting arts and culture in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the surrounding area.

About the Book: What elevates teaching my mother how to give birth, what gives the poems their disturbing brilliance, is Warsan Shire's ability to give simple, beautiful eloquence to the veiled world where sensuality lives in the dominant narrative of Islam; reclaiming the more nuanced truths of earlier times - as in Tayeb Salih's work - and translating to the realm of lyric the work of the likes of Nawal El Saadawi. As Rumi said, "Love will find its way through all languages on its own"; in 'teaching my mother how to give birth', Warsan's début pamphlet, we witness the unearthing of a poet who finds her way through all preconceptions to strike the heart directly. Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer who is based in London. Born in 1988, she is an artist and activist who uses her work to document narratives of journey and trauma. Warsan has read her work internationally, including recent readings in South Africa, Italy and Germany, and her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

47. The Ghost (Le Revenant in French)
About the Author: Aminata Sow Fall was born in Saint-Louis, Senegal. After spending several years at the Faidherbe grammar school, she finished her secondary schooling at the Van Vo grammar school in Dakar. She then went to France where she completed a licence in Modern Languages. She married in 1963 and returned to Senegal where she became a teacher before working for the National Reform Commission for the Teaching of French. Subsequently, she was appointed Director of la Propriété littéraire [The Literary Property] in Dakar (1979-1988). Sow's best known novel (and the only one in English translation) is The Beggar's Strike (1979). She is currently the Director of both the Centre Africain d'Animation et d'Echanges Culturels and Khoudia publishing house in Fann, Dakar. Aminata Sow Fall was also at the head of the Centre International d'Etudes, de Recherches et de Réactivation sur la Littérature, les Arts et la Culture that organized regular national and international Conferences in Saint-Louis. In 1997, Aminata Sow Fall was awarded an Honorary Degree at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts.

About the Book: When an honest post office worker, Bakar, realises that he is in debt because he has been financing the extravagant needs of his circle of family and friends, he steals money from his employer and ends up in prison for misappropriation of funds. He is then abandoned by all those who had profited from his extravagance and so Bakar decides to get his revenge.

Men of the South
About the Author: Zukiswa Wanner is a South African journalist and novelist. Here debut novel, The Madams, was shortlisted for the K. Sello Duiker Award in 2007 and in April 2014 Wanner was named on the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 sub-Saharan African writers under the age of 40 with potential to define trends in African literature. 

About the Book: Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2011: Africa Region, Men of the South is a fascinating novel about three men out from three worlds. Mfundo the musician and dad, Mzi - gay, but married, and Tinaye - a displaced Zimbabwean in South Africa.

49. David’s Story  
About the Author: Zoe Wicomb gained attention in South Africa and internationally with her first work, a collection of short stories, You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town (1987), which takes place during the apartheid era. Her second novel, David's Story (2000), takes place in 1991 toward the close of the apartheid era and explores racial identity. Playing in the Light, her third novel, released in 2006, covers similar terrain conceptually. It is set in mid-1990s Cape Town and centers around the theme of racial passing. Her second collection of short stories, The One That Got Away, is set mainly in Cape Town and Glasgow and explores a range of human relationships: marriage, friendships, family ties and relations with servants.

About the Book: Unfolding in South Africa, at the moment of Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1991, this novel explores the life and vision of a male activist through the pen of a female narrator. David Dirkse is part of the underground world of activists, spies and saboteurs in the liberation movement -- a world seldom revealed to outsiders. With 'time to think' after the unbanning of the movement, David is researching his roots in history of the mixed-race 'Coloured' people of South Africa and of their antecedents among the indigenous people and early colonial settlers. This story provides compelling history that is vividly personal, through the powerful filter of storytelling. Through voices that weave together -- responding to, illuminating, and sometimes contradicting one another -- Wicomb depicts a world where 'truth upon conflicting truth wriggles into shape'. The dramatic and violent turns at the close of the novel further testify to the complexity of truth -- and of telling.

50. Come find this book at Africa Writes 2014. 

Find the first 25 titles on the Gateway for Africa Blog.

List compiled by: Dele Meiji Fatunla & Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed
Research: Chinemelu Okafor

Africa Writes - The Royal African Society's literature festival runs from 11th July - 13th July at the British Library and headlined by novelist, Ama Ata Aidoo. 

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