Recommendations: Books from West Africa

Some time back, I made a post offering recommendations Book recommendations from Japan and South Korea. I thought today I’ll do the same with another region-West Africa. Here are some of the books from that region I’d like to recommend. I’m including books both by people living in West Africa and books from people from West African background living in other countries that take place in West Africa.

1. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okrapanta (Nigeria)

This book follows the life of a queer Nigerian woman from the time of the Biafran war. Ijeoma, an Igbo teenager discovers her same-sex attraction with a girl from the Hausa community her family had taken in even though Igbo and Hausa people were on the opposite sides of a civil war. Over time, we see the coming of age of Ijeoma. This is definitely not an easy read, but a very intense and enlightening one.

2. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Brathwaite(Nigeria)

This is a much lighter read, which might be a strange thing to say considering the subject matter, but it deals with it with some humour. It follows a woman whose sister is known to kill her boyfriends every time her relationship doesn’t work out. A strange, but interesting book.

3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Ghana)

This book takes place partly in Ghana and partly in America. It follows two sisters in Ghana, one who gets sold as a slave, while the other marries a slave owner. It follows lives across generations and is a pretty good book.

4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

This is another book that takes place partly in America and partly in West Africa (here, Nigeria). Part of it takes place in the UK as well. It follows a young couple Ifemalu and Obinze who move to the West when Nigeria is plunged into military rule. Ifemalu moves to the US, while Obinze becomes an undocumented immigrant in the UK. An interesting read that captures the nuances of the immigrant experience.

5. So Long, a Letter by Mariama Ba (Senegal)

This book, originally in French, follows a Senegalese woman thinking about how to go ahead in life after the death of her husband. She has to reconcile with the fact that her husband had taken a second wife-their own daughter’s friend. A short, insightful read.

6. Remote Control by Nnedi Okarafor (Ghana)

This was a pretty cool sci-fi story about a girl with the power to kill people by will in a futuristic society. A great, short read.

7. Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria)

Stay with Me was a recent read and it was really intense. It follows a Yejide and Akin, a young couple in a polygamous society. While they had decided that they only want each other, Akin finds himself pressured to take a second wife when Yejide is unable to conceive. However the book then takes turns you would never expect.

This are the books I read. There are also a few books on my TBR by West African author’s, which I’m yet to read.

1. An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)

This book apparently combines The Odyssey with Igbo folklore in a contemporary setting, to tell the story of a man who falls in love with the woman he sees about to jump off a bridge, and moves to another country hoping to get the education to become her social equal. Only he ends up getting duped, and interestingly, this story is told through the viewpoint of a ‘chi’, or a spirit. There was quite a bit of hype surrounding this book when it first came out and I’m really looking forward to reading this.

2. The Dark Child by Camara Laye (Guinea)

I don’t know much about this one, other than the fact it was originally written in French, and it is an autobiographical narrative following the author as a young boy in Guinea

3. Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana)

This is a book about a woman who divorces her husband after enduring marital rape, to her family’s surprise. Sounds like an intense read.

4. God’s Bit of Wood by Ousmane Sembene(Senegal)

This book revolves around a railway workers’ strike in Senegal. It sounds like it would be an interesting read.

5. Buried beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Nigeria)

Another intense-sounding book! This follows girls in Nigeria who were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Doesn’t sound like an easy read, but would be an interesting one.

So, which is your favourite book from this region?


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