By Johanna Dickson, Digital Publicist
There was a time in my life when the only books I read were by African writers. I was an African Studies major in college, and in addition to my coursework on campus I spent a semester living in Cape Town, South Africa and traveling throughout the country and its neighbor Mozambique. When I returned for my senior year I took a course on African literature that introduced me to many phenomenal writers.
Here are five to check out if you are new to African literature:
Chinua Achebe. The Nigerian-born Achebe is perhaps the most famous African writer. His debut novel, Things Fall Apart, was published in 1958 and is the mostly widely read novel in African literature. The book was the first in a trilogy that also includes No Longer at Ease and Arrow of God. A titled Igbo chieftain, many of Achebe novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society. He died in 2013.
Buchi Emecheta. Also Nigerian, Emecheta’s celebrated works include In the Ditch, Second-Class Citizen, The Slave Girl, and The Joys of Motherhood. Common themes in her works include child slavery, motherhood, female independence, and freedom through education. Her first works were based on her experience as an immigrant in London. She received an Order of the British Empire in 2005.
Wole Soyinka. Soyinka was the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is celebrated for his work as a playwright, poet, novelist, and essayist. Some of his best-known works include the plays The Trial of Brother Jero, A Dance of the Forests, Death and the King’s Horseman, and the novels The Interpreters and Season of Anomy. Soyinka has been active in Nigeria’s political history both during their war of independence from the British and their Civil War. He has taught at Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and Oxford.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. The only non-Nigerian on the list, Thiong’o was born in Kenya. He has received international acclaim as a novelist, essayist, playwright, social commentator and activist. His experience under British colonialism and the Mau Mau struggle for independence has framed much of his works. Thiong’o came to fame in the 1960s with the novels Weep Not, Child, The River Between and A Grain of Wheat. His most recent works include the autobiographical Dreams in a Time of War: a Childhood Memoir, In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir, and The Wizard of the Crow. He is currently the Distinguished Professor of the Departments of Comparative Literature and English at the University of California, Irvine.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The youngest writer on the list, Adichie rose to fame with her debut novel Purple Hibiscus in 2003. She is considered one of the most important voices in contemporary African literature and is credited for bringing a new generation of readers to African literature. Adichie’s 2006 novel Half of a Yellow Sun is currently being made into a movie. Her most recent release was the novel Americanah, which was on the New York Times List of the Best Books of 2013. Adichie divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
For more African writers, feel free to visit this list by Citypress.