Books

The 20 Must-Read African Literature for Summer 2024

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Ladies and gents, as we all know, summer is upon us.

The season for tans and lounge wear is here. While we while away time at the beach or poolside, we can catch up on the latest African literature. And we have curated the perfect summer reads just for you.

From gripping novels to insightful essays, these books show how African authors continue to enrich the world with their unique voices and perspectives. Let’s look at them.

Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World” by Bolu Babalola

Cr.: Instagram/Kimbookwyrm

Babalola’s debut collection reimagines classic love stories from around the globe with a fresh, modern twist, celebrating the diversity of romance and culture. From Nigerian folklore to Greek mythology, Babalola breathes new life into timeless tales of love, passion, and sacrifice.

With her trademark wit and charm, she invites readers to explore the universal themes of desire and longing through a multicultural lens, reminding us that love knows no boundaries or borders.

The Shadow King” by Maaza Mengiste

Cr.: Instagram/MaazaMengiste

Set during Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, this novel follows the lives of women who fought on the front lines of history, illuminating their courage and resilience. Mengiste’s lyrical prose and vivid descriptions bring to life the chaos and brutality of war, as seen through the eyes of Hirut, a young Ethiopian woman who joins the resistance. As Hirut and her comrades defy expectations and challenge the status quo, The Shadow King offers a powerful meditation on the nature of heroism and the enduring power of hope in the face of adversity.

Water in a Broken Glass” by Odessa Rose

Cr.: Google Books

This novel follows the journey of a young artist as she navigates love, ambition, and self-discovery in the vibrant Baltimore art scene. Through the eyes of Tunde, a struggling artist, and Jeya, a successful gallery owner, Rose explores the complexities of love and ambition in a world where success often comes at a cost. As Tunde and Jeya navigate the ups and downs of their relationship, Water in a Broken Glass offers a poignant meditation on the search for fulfilment and the sacrifices we make in pursuit of our dreams.

Travellers” by Helon Habila

Cr.: Instagram/Ouida Books

Based on Europe’s migrant crisis, this novel weaves together the stories of African refugees seeking a better life in the West. Through the eyes of Nigerian journalist, Abubakar, and Cameroonian refugee, Roland, Habila explores the harsh realities faced by migrants as they navigate treacherous journeys and bureaucratic obstacles. With its lyrical prose and nuanced characterizations, Travellers offers a timely and compassionate examination of the human cost of migration and the universal desire for a place to call home.

Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other eBook by Bernardine Evaristo - EPUB | Rakuten Kobo  9780241985007
Cr.: Rakuten Kobo

Winner of the Booker Prize, this novel follows the interconnected lives of twelve characters, mostly women, across generations and identities in contemporary Britain. Through a series of interconnected narratives, Evaristo explores themes of race, gender, and sexuality with wit, humour, and empathy. From Amma, a radical playwright, to Carole, a non-binary university professor, Evaristo’s characters defy stereotypes and challenge societal norms, offering a diverse portrait of modern Britain.

The Memory of Love” by Aminatta Forna

Cr.: Instagram/Readsandart

This poignant novel is set in post-war Sierra Leone and offers a timeless exploration of love, trauma, and the complexities of human connection. Through the intertwining stories of Adrian, a British psychologist, and Elias, a Sierra Leonean surgeon, Forna paints a vivid portrait of a country grappling with the aftermath of civil war. As the characters confront their own pasts and forge new relationships, The Memory of Love offers a moving meditation on the power of memory to heal, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

These Bones Will Rise Again” by Panashe Chigumadzi

these Bones Will Rise Again
Cr.: Jakana Media

Blending memoir and history, Chigumadzi reflects on Zimbabwe’s past, present, and future, exploring the legacy of colonialism and the resilience of its people. Through the lens of her own family’s experiences, Chigumadzi chronicles Zimbabwe’s tumultuous journey from colonisation to independence and beyond. As she travels across the country, meeting activists, artists, and ordinary citizens, Chigumadzi offers a deeply personal and insightful exploration of identity, memory, and the search for justice in a nation haunted by its past.

What Napoleon Could Not Do” by D.K Nnuro

In this gripping novel, America is portrayed through the perspectives and aspirations of three characters connected to Africa. Growing up in Ghana, siblings Jacob and Belinda Nti shared a singular goal: to relocate to the United States. However, for them, America represented both opportunity and adversity, ambition and obstacle. Jacob, a socially awkward computer programmer still residing with his father, yearns for a visa to join his wife in Virginia, an application repeatedly rejected by the U.S. government. Meanwhile, Belinda, hailed by their father for achieving what Napoleon could not, pursued higher education and a law degree in the U.S., marrying Wilder, a prosperous Black entrepreneur from Texas. Wilder’s outlook on America contrasts sharply with his wife’s, shaped by a lifetime of battling racism and marginalisation. Through the lens of these three individuals, the novel explores the promise and disillusionment inherent in life in a new country. Their journeys of dashed hopes and realised dreams form the core of the insightful narrative in What Napoleon Could Not Do.

The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi

Cr.: Instagram/Afictionalinterlude

This haunting novel explores identity, love, and acceptance through the story of Vivek Oji, a young Nigerian coming to terms with their true self. Emezi’s lyrical prose and evocative storytelling create a deeply moving narrative that delves into the complexities of gender, family, and cultural expectations. Set against the backdrop of contemporary Nigeria, The Death of Vivek Oji offers an exploration of self-discovery and the search for belonging in a society that often refuses to accept difference.

“She Would Be King” by Wayétu Moore

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore | Goodreads
Cr.: Good Reads

This magical realist novel set in Liberia reimagines the country’s history through the lives of three extraordinary characters with supernatural abilities. Moore’s vivid descriptions and richly drawn characters bring to life the complexities of Liberia’s past, from the brutality of slavery to the hope of independence. Through the stories of Gbessa, June Dey, and Norman Aragon, “She Would Be King” is a powerful meditation on identity, freedom, and the enduring spirit of resilience.

“Everybody Looking” by Candice Iloh

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh | Goodreads
Cr.: Good Reads

A powerful coming-of-age novel in verse, following the journey of Ada as she navigates family expectations, sexuality, and self-discovery. Iloh captures the raw emotions of adolescence, from the confusion of first love to the pain of familial estrangement.

“African Titanics” by Abu Bakr Khaal

Cr. Instagram/AStoryWithoutPlot

Khaal’s African Titanics is set on a migrant ship bound for Italy and vividly explores migration, identity, and the pursuit of a better life. Through the eyes of Zakaria, a young Sudanese man seeking refuge in Europe, Khaal sheds light on the harsh realities faced by migrants as they embark on perilous journeys in search of safety and opportunity. With its lyrical prose and splendid imagery, African Titanics gives a compassionate and insightful glimpse at the human cost of migration and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Black Sunday” by Tola Rotimi Abraham

Cr.: Instagram/TolaRotimiAbraham

This novel follows the lives of four siblings over two decades in Lagos, exploring the impact of loss, love, and ambition on their family. Through the alternating perspectives of Bibike, Ariyike, Andrew, and Peter, Abraham takes on a deep dive into contemporary Nigeria, from the bustling streets of Lagos to the quiet suburbs of the countryside. As the siblings navigate the complexities of family dynamics and the challenges of adulthood, “Black Sunday” meditates on the bonds that hold us together and the forces that tear us apart.

“An Orchestra of Minorities” by Chigozie Obioma

Cr.: Instagram/OuidaBooks

This lyrical novel is founded on the journey of a young poultry farmer in Nigeria as he navigates love, loss, and the pursuit of his dreams. Through the eyes of Chinonso, a humble farmer with big aspirations, Obioma explores themes of destiny, sacrifice, and the search for redemption. As Chinonso embarks on a quest to prove himself worthy of the woman he loves, he must confront his own limitations and the forces that seek to hold him back. An Orchestra of Minorities is a sober reflection on the universal desire for love and belonging.

I Wish I Knew This Earlier” by Toni Tones

Cr. Instagram/ToniTone

Seasoned X user Toni Tone takes us on a journey through her life as she picks out lessons from different phases of her life. It is the perfect handbook for dating intelligently this summer. Toni teaches readers how to love themselves, deal with childhood trauma and choose themselves again and again amongst other things.

Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible” by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

This empowering book offers practical advice, inspiration, and insights from successful Black British women across various industries, encouraging readers to embrace their identities and pursue their dreams with confidence. Through a series of interviews, anecdotes, and essays, Adegoke and Uviebinené celebrate the achievements of Black women in the UK, offering guidance and support to the next generation of leaders. With its affirming message and empowering stories, Slay In Your Lane is a must-read for anyone seeking inspiration and encouragement on their journey to success.

The First Woman” by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Cr.: Instagram/thatbookishgirl

Set in Uganda, this novel focuses on the life of Kirabo, a young woman searching for her place in a society shaped by tradition and modernity. Through Kirabo’s journey from adolescence to adulthood, Makumbi tackles identity, gender, and the search for autonomy in a patriarchal society. As Kirabo grapples with her own desires and ambitions, she must navigate the expectations of her family and community, forging her own path in a world that often seeks to limit her potential.

“House of Stone” by Novuyo Rosa

Cr.: Instagram/NovuyoRosaTshuma

House of Stone unravels the journey of a young Zimbabwean man as he discovers family secrets and grapples with the complexities of history and memory.  Tshuma uses Zamani, a young man on a quest to uncover the truth about his family’s past, to dissect the legacy of Zimbabwe’s colonial history and its impact on the present. As Zamani goes deeper into his family’s history, he discovers dark secrets and hidden betrayals that force him to confront his own identity and the role he plays in shaping his country’s future.

Honey and Spice” by Bolu Babalola

Cr.: Instagram/BoluBabalola

Babalola’s sophomore novel is a delightful romantic comedy set in Whitewell University. When Kiki Banjo, a sharp tongue host of the Brown Sugar radio show blacklists Malakai Korede, calling him a waste man and kissing him later on, she finds her show on the brink. To save both their reputations, they become entangled in a fake relationship. In this witty novel, Babalola explores vulnerability and romance like never before

Love Is Power, or Something Like That” by A. Igoni Barrett

Cr.: Africanbooksvibes

This collection of short stories by A. Igoni Barrett offers a compelling glimpse into the complexities of love and relationships in contemporary Africa. From Lagos to Accra, Barrett’s stories are filled with humour, heartache, and moments of unexpected tenderness that will resonate with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.

As you unwind this summer, add these books to your list and prepare for a lifetime of adventure.

Have fun!

Author

Praise Vandeh is a culture contributor at Modaculture.

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