Ten-Plus Short Story Collections from Writers of African Origin

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Short story collections have over time become my go-to choice of books to read. I went from completely being opposed to them, to not fully understanding them, to marveling at the skill of short story writers to convey so much in so little space. A couple years ago, I shared a list of twenty plus short story collections written by women of African origin, with works from Leila Abouzeid's Year of the Elephant to Yvonne Vera's Why Don't You Carve Other Animals. Since then, a number of collections have been published, including lost stories discovered in Naguib Mahfouz's papersIf you're looking for some exciting collections to tuck into, here are ten-plus ones to get you started. 


How Should A Person Read by Loveis Wise. Source: loveiswiseillustration



Elsewhere, Home by Leila Aboulela
Leila Aboulela's Elsewhere, Home offers us a rich tableau of life as an immigrant abroad. A young woman's encounter with a former classmate elicits painful reminders of her former life in Khartoum. A wealthy Sudanese student in Aberdeen begins an unlikely friendship with a Scottish man. A woman experiences an evolving relationship to her favourite writer, whose portrait of their shared culture both reflects and conflicts with her own sense of identity.

Shuttling between the dusty, sun-baked streets of Khartoum and the university halls and cramped apartments of Aberdeen and London, Elsewhere, Home explores, with subtlety and restraint, the profound feelings of yearning, loss and alienation that come with leaving one's homeland in pursuit of a different life.




Fresh, exciting, vital and contemporary, Friday Black tackles urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explores the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In the first, unforgettable story of this collection, The Finkelstein Five, Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unstinting reckoning of the brutal prejudice of the US justice system. In Zimmer Land we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And Friday Black and How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.


 

We Won't Fade Into Darkness by TJ Benson

An abusive father is forced out of safety to find his runaway son in a world where males are going extinct and female monarchs have resorted to drastic methods to ensure continuity of the Nigerian race. An Ogbanje travels to a near post-apocalyptic Nigeria from the past with a solution even she is not aware of. In a Nigeria where the British never left, a white boy who lives in Lagos seizes a banned book from one of his father’s Nigerian household serfs and their friendship yields disastrous consequences in Passion Fruit. In We Won’t Fade into Darkness the past and future comes to a head, indiscriminate exploitation of oil eventually yields Nigerium, a gaseous element that poisons air, destroys reproductive organs and drives people insane. The common thread in these stories apart from the country of its setting is the lifeblood of every indigene, hope.



After the war, I thought all that was left was ashes, hollow ruins . . . Today, I know that’s not true. Where man remains, a seed, too, survives, a dream to inseminate time. 

Published in the aftermath of Mozambique’s bloody civil war, Mia Couto’s third collection seeks out the places violence could not reach, the places where, the author writes, “every man is the same: pretending he’s here, dreaming of going away, and plotting his return.” Shifting masterfully between forms—creation tale to meditation, playful comedy to magical twist—these stories grapple with questions of what’s been lost and what can be reclaimed, what future exists for a country that broke the yoke of colonialism only to descend into internecine war, what is Mozambican and what is Mozambique. Following fishermen and fortune-tellers, widows and drunks, and one errant hippopotamus, this new translation of stories by the Man Booker-listed author of Confession of the Lioness rediscovers possibility and what it means to be reborn.




First published in Nigeria, Nights of the Creaking Bed is full of colourful characters involved in affecting dramas: a girl who is rejected in love because she has three brothers to look after; a middle-aged housewife who finds love again but has an impossible decision to make; a young man who can’t get the image of his naked, beautiful mother out of his mind; a child so poor he has to hawk onions on Christmas day – and many others. Some, initially full of hope, find their lives blighted by the cruelty of others, or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or by just not knowing the “right” people.



Corruption, religious intolerance, gratuitous violence, the irresponsible attitudes of some men to their offspring and the importance of joy are some of the big themes that underlie this memorable collection.


 


Talk of the Town by Fred Khumalo


Talk of the Town by award-winning writer Fred Khumalo comprises short stories he wrote over many years. In this vibrant collection Khumalo explores identity and belonging through tales about African foreign nationals in South Africa, xenophobia, South Africans abroad, exiled comrades during apartheid, and past and current township life. At times hilarious and at times gut-wrenching, this is a collection that will move you.



The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz

Meet the people of Cairo's Gamaliya quarter. There is Nabqa, son of Adam the waterseller who can only speak truths; the beautiful and talented Tawhida who does not age with time; Ali Zaidan, the gambler, late to love; and Boss Saqr who stashes his money above the bath. A neighbourhood of demons, dancing and sweet halva, the quarter keeps quiet vigil over the secrets of all who live there. 

This collection by pre-eminent Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz was recently discovered among his old papers. Found with a slip of paper titled 'for publishing 1994', they are published here for the first time. Resplendent with Mahfouz's delicate and poignant observations of everyday happenings, these lively stories take the reader deep into the beating heart of Cairo.




A young woman sits by her father’s deathbed, lamenting her failure to keep a promise to him…
A struggling writer walks every inch of the city in search of inspiration, only to find it is much closer than she imagined…
A girl collapses from hunger at the side of the road and is rescued by the most unlikely of saviours...

In this powerful, debut collection of stories, Rania Mamoun expertly blends the real and imagined to create a rich, complex and moving portrait of contemporary Sudan. From painful encounters with loved ones to unexpected new friendships, Mamoun illuminates the breadth of human experience and explores, with humour and compassion, the alienation, isolation and estrangement that is urban life.




In Téa Mutonji’s disarming debut story collection, a woman contemplates her Congolese traditions during a family wedding, a teenage girl looks for happiness inside a pack of cigarettes, a mother reconnects with her daughter through their shared interest in fish, and a young woman decides on shaving her head in the waiting room of an abortion clinic.

These punchy, sharply observed stories blur the lines between longing and choosing, exploring the narrator’s experience as an involuntary one. Tinged with pathos and humour, they interrogate the moments in which femininity, womanness, and identity are not only questioned but also imposed.

Shut Up You’re Pretty is the first book to be published under VS. Books, a series of books curated and edited by writer-musician Vivek Shraya featuring work by new and emerging Indigenous or Black writers, or writers of colour.



Nudibranch by Irenosen Okojie
Irenosen Okojie's second collection of short stories focuses on offbeat characters caught up in extraordinary situations - a mysterious woman of the sea in search of love arrives on an island inhabited by eunuchs; dimensional-hopping monks navigating a season of silence face a bloody reckoning in the ruins of an abbey; an aspiring journalist returning from a failed excursion in Sydney becomes what she eats and a darker, Orwellian future is imagined where oddly detached children arrive in cycles and prove to be dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings.

Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi 

If there's one thing the characters in Jennifer Makumbi's stories know, it's how to field an uncomfortable question.

'Let me buy you a cup of tea...what are you doing in England?'
'Do these children of yours speak any Luganda?'
'Did you know that man Idi Amin?'
But perhaps the most difficult question of all is the one they ask themselves: 'You mean this is England?'

Told with empathy, humour and compassion, these vibrant, kaleidoscopic stories re-imagine the journey of Ugandans who choose to make England their home. Weaving between Manchester and Kampala, this dazzling collection will captivate anyone who has ever wondered what it means to truly belong.  


Intruders by Mohale Mashigo

Orphan sisters chase monsters of urban legend in Bloemfontein. At a busy taxi rank, a woman kills a man with her shoe. A genomicist is accused of playing God when she creates a fatherless child. Intruders is a collection that explores how it feels not to belong. These are stories of unremarkable people thrust into extraordinary situations by events beyond their control. With a unique and memorable touch, Mohale Mashigo explores the everyday ills we live with and wrestle constantly, all the while allowing hidden energies to emerge and play out their unforeseen consequences.




Charts the unconventional lives and love affairs of a group of Nigerian migrants, making their way in Belgium. The collection is centred around Prosperous and her husband Agu, and the various visitors who gather at their apartment each week. These interconnected stories explore their struggles and triumphs, from unhappy marriages (of convenience or otherwise), to the pain of homesickness, and the tragic paradox in longing to leave Nigeria so that you may one day return to it.

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