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Here Are the African Books We’re Super Pumped About in 2020!

BellaNaija Features

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Hey BNers, we have decided to smash our reading goals this year, haven’t we? Wait a minute, do you have a reading goal or plan? No? Now, really?😒. In case you are not fully aware, reading is non-negotiable in today’s world where we ‘have no other choice’ but to keep learning and growing. Anyway, we won’t go into details why reading is very important, but if you have made up your mind to read this year, we have collated 30 books by African authors you definitely need to read. Trust us, these books are the truth (or will be when they are all out).

An Act of Defiance by Irene Sabatini

Gabrielle is a newly-qualified lawyer, fighting for justice for a young girl. Ben is an urbane and charismatic junior diplomat, attached to Harare with the American embassy. With high-level pressure on Gabrielle to drop her case, and Robert Mugabe’s youth wing terrorizing his political opponents as he tightens his grip on power, they begin a tentative love affair. But when both fall victim to a shocking attack, their lives splinter across continents and their stories diverge, forcing Gabrielle on a painful journey towards self-realization.

Irene Sabatini, Winner of the 2010 Orange Award for New Writers, has written an unforgettable novel about love, agency, motherhood, and bravery, showing how the dehumanizing effects of political violence can shape and remake a life.

The Orchid Protocol by Onoche Onyekwena
On the 16th of September, 2019, a bomb blast by a terrorist group named ‘the Dark Cell’ rocks the city. Accepting responsibility for the blast, the group demanded the release of ‘The Red Baron’, one of the most notorious criminals in Nigeria. This action sets off a chain of events that challenges the Directorate of Counterterrorism in Lagos. Onoche’s The Orchid Protocol emerged as the first runner-up at GTB’s Dusty Manuscript competition.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Gifty is a sixth-year Ph.D candidate in neuroscience at Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.
We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

Uganda, the late 1960s. Hasan, the son of an Indian immigrant, runs a successful business in Kampala together with his extended family. But Hasan is heartbroken as he struggles to cope with the untimely death of his wife. With anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise, growing racial divides threaten to uproot everything he and his family have worked so hard to build.

London, present day. Sameer is a Cambridge graduate and high-flying lawyer, on track for a life-changing promotion. But, despite his success, Sameer feels lost. The life he’s longed for is only making him miserable. After a tragedy calls him back to the family home in Leicester, Sameer finds himself caught between a future he’s always believed he wanted, and a past he struggles to fit back into.

Moving between two continents over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is a multi-layered, moving and immensely resonant novel of generational love, loss and what it means to find home. It is the first work of fiction by Hafsa Zayyan, co-winner of the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize, and the most exciting young novelist of today.

Unbury Our Dead With Song by Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ
Unbury our Dead With Song is a novel about four talented Ethiopian musicians – The Diva, The Corporal, the Taliban Man, and Miriam, who are competing to see who can sing the best Tizita (popularly referred to as Ethiopian blues).  Taking place in an illegal boxing hall in Nairobi, Kenya, the competition is covered by a US-educated Kenyan journalist, John Thandi Manfredi, who writes for a popular tabloid, The National Inquisitor.  He follows the musicians back to Ethiopia in order to learn more about the Tizita and their lives. As he learns more about the Tizita and the multiple meanings of beauty, he uncovers that behind each of the musicians, there are layered lives and secrets.  Ultimately, the novel is a love letter to African music, beauty, and imagination.
The Madhouse by TJ Benson
A house brings two unique souls together by the unlikeliest of chances. In their union, that of an almost priest and a prodigal daughter, two brothers whose bond transcends the laws of nature are born. As the history of Nigeria unfolds, it creates a turbulent backdrop to the equally turbulent struggles of the complicated love story and the tribulations faced by the brothers; Max who is steadfast and continual in his love for Andre whose demons chase him beyond the shores of the continent. As the decades pass, the entangled web of selfishness, desperation and deep unflinching love merges in a spellbinding tale that proves that perhaps family might be the greatest bond of all or the weakest link to their humanity.
The Mechanics of Yenagoa by Michael Afenfia

The Mechanics of Yenagoa was a weekly blog series that captivated people all over the country and it is now a novel.

The book tells the story of Ebinimi, star mechanic of Kalakala Street – a man with a hapless knack for getting in and out of trouble. Some of his troubles are self-inflicted: like his recurring entanglements in love triangles; and his unauthorized joyriding of a customer’s car which sets off a chain of dire events involving drugs, crooked politicians, and assassins. Other troubles are caused by the panorama of characters in his life, like: his sister and her dysfunctional domestic situation; the three other mechanics he employs; and the money-loving preacher who has all but taken over his home.

Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham
Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life
Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement. In the process, it joyfully tells a tale of grace and connection in the midst of daily oppression and the constant incursions of unremitting patriarchy.
This is a novel about two young women slowly finding, over twenty years, in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life and love, their own distinct methods of resistance and paths to independence.
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Ella has a Thing. She sees a classmate grow up to become a caring nurse. A neighbor’s son murdered in a drive-by shooting. Things that haven’t happened yet. Kev, born while Los Angeles burned around them, wants to protect his sister from a power that could destroy her. But when Kev is incarcerated, Ella must decide what it means to watch her brother suffer while holding the ability to wreck cities in her hands.

Rooted in the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is as much an intimate family story as a global dystopian narrative. It burns fearlessly toward revolution and has quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are both shockingly human and immeasurably powerful. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by racism. Their futures might alter the world.

The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka
1981: England looks forward to a new decade. But on the streets of Brixton, it’s hard to hold onto your dreams, especially if you are a young black man. Racial tensions rumble, and now Michael Watson might land in jail for a crime he did not commit.
Thousands of miles away, village girl Ngozi abandons her orange stall for the chance to work as a maid. Alone in a big city, Ngozi’s fortunes turn dark and soon both her heart and hopes are shattered.
From dusty roads to gritty pavements, Ngozi and Michael’s journey towards a better life is strewn with heartache and injustice. When they finally collide, their lives will be transformed forever.
Sensuous Knowledge by Minna Salami
In Sensuous Knowledge, Minna Salami draws on Africa-centric, feminist-first and artistic traditions to help us rediscover inclusive and invigorating ways of experiencing the world afresh.
Combining the playfulness of a storyteller with the insight of a social critic, the book pries apart the systems of power and privilege that have dominated ways of thinking for centuries – and which have led to so much division, prejudice and damage. Through this book, Salami offers fresh insights into the key cultural issues that affect women’s lives.
The Death of Comrade President by Alain Mabanckou (translated by Helen Stevenson)

In Pointe-Noire, in the small neighbourhood of Voungou, on the family plot where young Michel lives with Maman Pauline and Papa Roger, life goes on. But Michel’s everyday cares – lost grocery money, the whims of his parents’ moods, their neighbours’ squabbling, his endless daydreaming – are soon swept away by the wind of history. In March 1977, just before the arrival of the short rainy season, Comrade President Marien Ngouabi is brutally murdered in Brazzaville, and not even naive Michel can remain untouched. At a stroke, Michel learns the realities of life – and how much must change for everything to stay the same.

Starting as a tender, wry portrait of an ordinary Congolese family, Alain Mabanckou quickly expands the scope of his story into a powerful examination of colonialism, decolonization and dead ends of the African continent.

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, this book tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interests. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price.
The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

‘A powerful feminist rendition of Ugandan origin tales, The First Woman tells the story of Kirabo, the equivalent of Eve in Ugandan mythology. Smart, headstrong and flawed, Kirabo is raised by doting grandparents in idyllic Nattetta in rural Uganda. But as she enters her teens, she starts to feel overshadowed by the absence of the mother she has never known.

‘At once epic and deeply personal, it tells the story of one young girl’s search for her mother, her discovery of what it means to be a woman throughout history and the implications for her future.’

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity – and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

A Broken People’s Playlist by Chimeka Garricks
A Broken People’s Playlist is a collection of short stories with underlying themes so beautifully woven that each story flows into the other seamlessly. From its poignant beginning in “Lost Stars” a story about love and it’s fleeting, transient nature to the gritty, raw musical prose encapsulated in “In The City”, a tale of survival set in the alleyways of the waterside. A Broken People’s Playlist is a mosaic of stories about living, loving and hurting through very familiar sounds, in very familiar ways and finding healing in the most unlikely places.
If you are from Port-Harcourt, then this book is a must-read for you! The stories are also part-homage and part-love letter to Port Harcourt (the city which most of them are set in).
The Dark Lady by Akala

A pickpocket with an exceptional gift 
A prisoner of extraordinary value 
An orphan haunted by dreams of the mysterious darl lady 

Henry is an orphan, an outsider, a thief. He is also a fifteen-year-old invested with magical powers …

This brilliant, at times brutal, first novel from the amazing imagination that is Akala, will glue you to your seat as you are hurled into a time when London stank and boys like Henry were forced to find their own route through the tangled streets and out the other side.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
The Death of Vivek Oji is named one of the most anticipated books of the year by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Library Journal.
One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious.
Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.
Conjure women by Afia Atakora
Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.
The Dragons, the Giants, The Women by Wayetu Moore
Spanning this harrowing journey in Moore’s early childhood, her years adjusting to life in Texas as a black woman and an immigrant, and her eventual return to Liberia, The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a deeply moving story of the search for home in the midst of upheaval. Moore has a novelist’s eye for suspense and emotional depth, and this unforgettable memoir is full of imaginative, lyrical flights and lush prose. In capturing both the hazy magic and stark realities of what is becoming an increasingly pervasive experience, Moore shines a light on the great political and personal forces that continue to affect many migrants around the world and calls us all to acknowledge the tenacious power of love and family.
The Missing American by Kwei Quartey

Gordon Tilson is a lonely American widower, who has found solace in an online support group. He befriends a young Ghanaian widow, and when her sister is in a car accident, he sends her thousands of dollars to cover the hospital bill – to the horror of his son, Derek. And when Gordon runs off to Ghana to surprise his new love but disappears without a trace, Derek hurries overseas himself, fearful for his father’s safety.

Frustrated by the lack of interest from local police, Derek turns to Emma Djan, the newest member of a private detective agency. The case of the missing American man will drag both Emma and Derek into a world of sakawa scams and corruption.

Anthology

Nairobi Noir Edited by Peter Kimani

Nairobi Noir is an act of excavation, rediscovering the city’s ossified past and infusing life to preserve it for future generations. It is also an act of celebration, reminding readers of the brilliance of the best-known writers to emerge from this part of the world, and heralding the birth of new writers whose gifts, we can safely predict, will shine brightly in the years ahead.

The oldest writer in this anthology is eighty-one, the youngest is only twenty-four; if there is any inference one can draw from this demographic it is that this anthology offers an entire spectrum of Kenyan writing: the past, present, and future. If we can allow one extravagant claim, a collection of this nature is unprecedented in Kenya’s literary history.

Although the range of issues explored in Nairobi Noir is as diverse as its contributors, it all gestures toward a common theme. In this concrete jungle, the hunters and herders live on. As do the hunted.

Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola

Love in Colour is a collection of representative love stories from mythology and history, retold by the wonderful Bolu Babalola. From magical Nigerian folktales to homo-romantic Greek myths, to the ancient stories of South Asia, Bolu brings new life to tales that truly show the vibrancy and colours of love around the world.

The anthology is a step towards decolonizing tropes of love, and celebrates in the wildly beautiful and astonishingly diverse tales of romance and desire that already exist in various cultures and communities.

Anthropology

Prey by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
In Prey, Ayaan Hirsi Ali weaves together personal testimonies and hard facts to show how the Western world is experiencing a significant setback in women’s rights. Underscoring the role of religion, demography, conflict, television, and social media, Hirsi Ali explains that today there is one major factor causing a decline in women’s safety and independence: massive immigration from Muslim majority countries with a radically different view of the place of women in society. This change is setting back women’s rights alarmingly fast, and in some places, by decades.
With extensive research and insight, Hirsi Ali flags this dangerous decline, addressing issues ranging from immigration and Islam to the apologetic multiculturalism of Western liberal democracies. Her message is clear: we cannot turn a blind eye to violations of women’s rights carried out in the name of religion in our own backyard.

Collection of Poems

Anodyne by Khadijah Queen

In language that is dynamic, powerful, and delicate, Anodyne brilliantly maps the self across time, across landscape, across love.

The poems that make up Anodyne consider the small moments that enrapture us alongside the daily threats of cataclysm. Formally dynamic and searingly personal, Anodyne asks us to recognize the echoes of history that litter the landscape of our bodies as we navigate a complex terrain of survival and longing. Through a combination of formal lyrics, delicate experiments, sharp rants, musical litany, and moments of wit that uplift and unsettle, Queen’s poems show us the terrible consequences and stunning miracles of how we choose to live.

Mamaseko by Thabile Makue
Named after the poet’s mother, ‘mamaseko is a collection of introspective lyrics and other poems dealing with the intersections of blood relationships and related identities. Thabile Makue questions what it means to be beings of blood—to relate by blood, to live by blood. In her poems Makue looks for traces of shared trauma and pain and asserts that wounds of the blood are healed by the same.
Sacrament of Bodies by Romeo Oriogun
In this groundbreaking collection of poems, Sacrament of Bodies, Romeo Oriogun fearlessly interrogates how a queer man in Nigeria can heal in a society where everything is designed to prevent such restoration. With honesty, precision, tenderness of detail, and a light touch, Oriogun explores grief and how the body finds survival through migration.

Memoir

Conditional Citizen by Laila Lalami
Kids and Teens
Too Small Tola by Atinuke
This children’s book tells the delightful stories about Too Small Tola, a young girl who, though small, is very determined. Tola lives in a flat in Lagos with her sister, Moji, who is very clever; her brother, Dapo, who is very fast; and Grandmummy, who is very bossy. Tola proves to be stronger than she seems when she goes to market with Grandmummy and manages to carry home a basket full of yams and vegetables, chili peppers and fish. When the taps in the flat don’t work, it’s Tola who brings water from the well, and it’s Tola who saves the day when Mr. Abdul, the tailor, needs his goods to be delivered quickly. Too Small Tola is a wonderful new character in the world of children’s books by multi-award-winning children’s writer and storyteller Atinuke.
Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor
Nnamdi’s father was a good chief of police, perhaps the best Kalaria had ever had. He was determined to root out the criminals that had invaded the town. But then he was murdered, and most people believed the Chief of Chiefs, most powerful of the criminals, was responsible. Nnamdi has vowed to avenge his father, but he wonders what a twelve-year-old boy can do. Until a mysterious nighttime meeting, the gift of a magical object that enables super powers, and a charge to use those powers for good changes his life forever. How can he fulfill his mission? How will he learn to control his newfound powers? We can’t wait to find out.
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That’s our list, people. Share yours with us. A community that reads together, stays together. 

6 Comments

  1. Nnekq

    January 28, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Too long and too many books. Will bookmark it to be read later

    1
    • Book lover

      January 31, 2020 at 7:01 pm

      Agreed! Plus the formatting makes it painful to read on a mobile device. It reads like a very long prose…no breaks or paragraphs.

      1
  2. Ben

    January 31, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    Please fix the spacing of this article so it’s easy to read.

  3. Pages and sounds

    February 1, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    Very impressive list. I was unaware of about half a dozen of these new releases. I will be getting as many of them that catch my fancy as soon as each of them is released. Top of the list is A Broken People’s Playlist by Chimeka Garricks.
    My reading list for 2020 was compiled at the end of 2019 and ca be found here – http://pagesandsounds.com/2019/12/2020-reading-list/

  4. Chukwuemeka Obi

    February 4, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    I look forward to Michael Afenfia’s Mechanics of Yenagoa already! Read it as a series on his blog. It was so dope. Can’t wait to hold the book – or maybe read on Amazon.

  5. Billy Lamya

    March 15, 2020 at 8:13 am

    Quiet amazing list there, I can wait to get hold of that book titled “an act of defiance” by Irene Sabatini.

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