Updated: Jul 5
The year 2021 will be remembered for the prizes won by African writers in French, German and English global categories. Abdulrazak Gurnah (Nobel), Boubacar Diop (International Prize for Literature), Tsitsi Dangaremba (Peace Prize) and many others were recognised internationally.
On the continent, exceptional writing continued to be conferred awards. Meron Hadero (AKO Caine), Clara Wanjira Karuiki (African Writers), Obinna Udenwe (Chinua Achebe Prize), Resoketswe Manenzhe (South African Literary) and many others were honoured.
Women and men of African letters should not solely judge themselves by external recognition, however powerful and life changing this is for an individual writer. Why should writers producing excellent literature for many years, with numerous published works, submit to feelings of their umpteenth book being treated as 'the first' on the basis of an external body finally reading their words?
We present books which are being released as we type and others that will be published this year. There is plenty to look forward to. We hope you get the opportunity to enjoy them before being told they are bestsellers ! A book remains the same before it is bestowed a title and, for the best ones, for millennia after.
We look forward to reading African writing and forming our own opinion, as you should your own dear reader. The books are in no particular order.
Cremation of the Scarecrow
Dzikamayi Chando was born and raised in Gweru, Zimbabwe. Some of his works appear in several online literary publications and Cremation of the Scarecrow is his debut collection.
'Cremation of the Scarecrow is an impressively diverse and generous collection that talks to the truths of blackness, the ghetto experience and plight of poverty, unemployment and drug abuse, dilemma of immigration, identity crisis and discovery of self, depression and death, love and hope, to name but a few.
This book is published by Carnelian Heart Publishing, the emerging independent publishing house whose expanding portfolio is already impressive. The editors are Zimbabwean born and their work will leave a lasting pathway in publishing for future generations.
Things They Lost
Ayosa is a wandering spirit - joyous and filled to the brim with longing. Her only companions in her grandmother's crumbling house are as lonely as Ayosa herself: the ghostly Fatumas, the sullen milkman and Sindano, the owner of a cafe that no one ever visits. But a curse hangs over the women in Ayosa's family, a curse which has blighted the life of her mother, Nabumbo Promise.
Set at the intersection of the spirit world and the human one, suffused with Kenyan folklore and myth, Things They Lost is an unforgettable novel about love at its most intoxicating, from a standout new literary voice.
What Happened to Janet Uzor
A year after their best friend, Janet Uzor dies in a drowning incident, Pamela and Ebere are trying to cope and move on in their own unique ways. Pamela buries her emotions, while Ebere has been on a mission to find out what really happened to their friend, an excellent swimmer, whose death seems unfair and unconscionable. When Pamela begins to receive sinister letters threatening her life, she finally has to confront her fears, and with the help of Ebere, on/off boyfriend Eche, good friend Daniel Kalio, she sets out to find out who is after her life. In order to do this, they have to uncover the truth and the circumstances behind the death of Janet Uzor. More about this book from Masobe Books here.
An incisive and exhilarating debut novel of female friendship following three Anglo-Nigerian best friends and the lethally glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group—the most unforgettable girls since Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda.
Ronke wants happily ever after and 2.2. kids. Boo has everything Ronke wants—a kind husband, gorgeous child. Simi is the golden one with the perfect lifestyle.
A sharp, modern take on friendship, ambition, culture, and betrayal, Wahala (trouble) is an unforgettable novel from a brilliant new voice.
Woman, Eat Me Whole
Ama Asantewa Diaka
Ama Asantewa Diaka presents a vivid, piercing and provocative exploration of 'the woman' in all its representations: dreams, body, being, purpose and desires. Diaka's selects the right tone to approach the same subject from a variety of angles and observations, reliant on careful crafting of phrases to draw out meaning, lay a path and invite the reader to revel not only in the physical but the metaphorical imagination. Brutal confrontation does the job in some poems. The result is that meaning lingers long after one has read a poem in this stunning debut anthology. A book to keep and dip into on many occasions. Medaase Ama Asantewa.
Jummy at the River School
A glorious boarding school adventure set in Nigeria - a story of friendship, empathy and fighting for what you believe in.
Jummy has won a place at the River School, the finest girls' boarding school in Nigeria. Nothing can dampen her spirits, not even when she learns that her best friend Caro won't be joining her.
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun
Black Panther meets Percy Jackson in this action-packed and empowering middle-grade superhero series about a British-Nigerian girl who learns that her Afro hair has psychokinetic powers. I close my eyes, trying to push the power bubbling in me back down.
Onyeka is whisked off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari - children with superpowers - are trained. But Onyeka and her new friends at the Academy soon have to put their powers to the test as they find themselves caught up in an epic battle !
Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms
Jamar J. Perry
Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron's only connection to his parents, who disappeared one fateful night two years ago.
The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them. Is Cameron ready to be the hero? Inspired by West African and Igbo history and mythology, this adventure-filled fantasy introduces readers to Cameron Battle as he begins his journey to greatness.
This book is on my desk. A review will appear soon on this platform.
The Merciless Ones
The second book in an epic fantasy series about a girl who is the key to saving the empire--or its greatest threat.
It's been six months since Deka has freed the goddesses and discovered who she really is. There are now wars waging across the kingdom. Otereans now think jatu are traitors to the nation. Deka is called a monster.
But the real battle has only just begun and Deka must lead the charge. Deka is tasked with freeing the rest of the goddesses. Only as she begins to free them, she begins to see a strange symbol everywhere in places of worship and worn on armor.
A Hole in the Air
Lazarus Panashe Nyagwambo
In this compelling debut short story collection, Lazarus Panashe Nyagwambo offers his interpretation of the human condition, delving deep into the psyche of the personas he invents - their perspectives, motives and emotions, with a vividness that radiates from the pages.
A Hole in the Air is a blend of intriguing stories that are sometimes as comical as they are sombre. Nyagwambo’s prose is as poetic as his reconnoitres of the bonds of love, family and friendship, the strengths of which he tests under the weight of this thing we call life.
This book is published by Carnelian Heart Publishing and will be available soon.
From the moment Sunny Nwazue discovered she had magic flowing in her blood, she sought to understand and control her powers.
Throughout her adventures in Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, she had to navigate the balance between nearly everything in her life–America and Nigeria, the “normal” world and the one infused with juju, human and spirit, good daughter and powerful Leopard Person.
Dreams from my Mother
Dame Elizabeth Anionwu
A moving and inspiring biography. A reminder of what the genre should be: a biography is only worth it to those who have changed the status quo, invented or produced new knowledge. Otherwise sit down, abeg.
Dame Anionwu, not "Onion" had a difficult start being separated from her mother. She eventually meets her Nigerian diplomat father and the extended family.
This book is a gift to all and had it not been written, it would have been a loss not dissimilar to how we forgot Mary Seacole. Read the full Nataka Books review here.
Hunting by the Stars
The thrilling follow-up to the bestselling, award-winning novel The Marrow Thieves, about a dystopian world where the Indigenous people of North America are being hunted for their bone marrow and ability to dream.
Continuing the impressive output from Jacaranda Books.
Written in a combination of English and Trinidad Creole, 'Pleasantview' reveals the dark side of the Caribbean dream—where poverty and patriarchy savagely rule, and where love and revenge often go hand in hand.
Coconut trees. Carnival. Rum and coke. To many outsiders, these and other sunny images are all they know about life in the Caribbean. However, if you want to learn how the locals truly live and experience the dark and often harrowing truths that lurk behind the idyllic imagery of Caribbean culture, then come visit the town of Pleasantview.
Published by Jacaranda.
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister. It’s a cautionary tale, about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers and go into the Baxter’s Tunnels.
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is an intimate and visceral portrayal of interconnected lives, across race and class, in a rapidly changing resort town, told by an astonishing new author of literary fiction.
Fifteen-year-old Sloane can incinerate an enemy at will—she is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods.
Under the Lucis’ brutal rule, her identity means her death if her powers are discovered. But when she is forcibly conscripted into the Lucis army on her fifteenth birthday, Sloane sees a new opportunity: to overcome the bloody challenges of Lucis training, and destroy them from within.
Sloane rises through the ranks and gains strength but, in doing so, risks something greater: losing herself entirely, and becoming the very monster that she abhors.
Children of the Quicksands
City girl Simi is sent to stay with her long-lost grandmother in a remote Nigerian village.
There’s no TV, internet or phone. Not a single human-made sound can be heard at night, just the noise of birds and animals rustling in the dark forest outside.
Her witchlike grandmother dispenses advice and herbal medicine to the village, but she’s tight lipped about their family history. Something must have happened, but what? Determined to find out, Simi disobeys her grandmother and goes exploring. Caught in the sinking red quicksand of a forbidden lake, her fantastical journey begins. From the team at Masobe Books.
It is the early 1830’s, the countries of the global north are mired in internecine wars and poverty. The British Empire has set themselves up as the world power through the trans-atlantic slave trade and has started its long-term goal of sequestering and colonising the West Coast of Africa ahead of Germany and France. In their designs for Oduduwa nations, independent city-states in the south-west, they had factored in greed and the use of force, but what they hadn’t bargained for was resistance from the powerful women living in these areas.
Swallow is a vivid reimagining of ancient Yoruba history that tells a sweeping tale of tradition and culture, family, legacy and love.
The Eternal Audience of One
Nobody ever makes it to the start of a story, not even the people in it. The most one can do is make some sort of start and then work toward some kind of ending.
One might as well start with Séraphin: playlist-maker, nerd-jock hybrid, self-appointed merchant of cool, Rwandan, stifled and living in Windhoek, Namibia. Soon he will leave the confines of his family life for the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, in South Africa, where loyal friends, hormone-saturated parties, adventurous conquests, and race controversies await. More than that, his long-awaited final year in law school promises to deliver a crucial puzzle piece of the Great Plan immigrant: a degree from a prestigious university. This book was published in August 2021 but is worthy of inclusion in this list.
Glory centers around the unexpected fall of Old Horse, a long-serving leader of a fictional country, and the drama that follows for a rumbustious nation of animals on the path to true liberation. Inspired by the unexpected fall by coup, in November 2017, of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president of nearly four decades, Bulawayo’s bold, vividly imagined novel shows a country imploding, narrated by a chorus of animal voices who unveil the ruthlessness and cold strategy required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, and the imagination and bullet-proof optimism to overthrow it completely.
A History of Namibia
When the UN’s Australian troops arrived in Windhoek to help secure the peace process in the build-up to Namibia’s Independence on March 21, 1990, the excited soldiers stormed out of their transport aircraft and took up combat positions around the circumference of the airfield much to the amusement of the locals. Nobody had got around to telling them that t they had arrived in one of the most under-populated countries in the world and, if they wanted war, they were going to have to look for it. A failure to encompass the size of Namibia, as well as the length of its history, is a common shortcoming of historians. It is not one which Marion Wallace transgresses in this excellent and comprehensive book which covers Namibian history from the Holocene period – more than 10, 0000 years ago...
Her Silent Screams
Fatima Farrah Omar has spent her whole life on the outskirts looking in and just when she has finally found her voice, it is brutally snatched away from her and she is thrust into a nightmarish existence in a hidden camp deep in the Nigerian jungle.
The book will be published later this year. A synopsis is available here.
Bianca Lynne Spriggs
The Appalachian region stretches from Mississippi to New York, encompassing rural areas as well as cities from Birmingham to Pittsburgh.
Though Appalachia's people are as diverse as its terrain, few other regions in America are as burdened with stereotypes.
Author Frank X Walker coined the term "Affrilachia" to give identity and voice to people of African descent from this region and to highlight Appalachia's multicultural identity.
This act inspired a group of gifted artists, the Affrilachian Poets, to begin working together and using their writing to defy persistent stereotypes of Appalachia as a racially and culturally homogenized region.
House of Music : Raising the Kanneh-Masons
Seven brothers and sisters. All of them classically trained musicians. One was Young Musician of the Year and performed for the royal family. The eldest has released her first album, showcasing the works of Clara Schumann.
These siblings don't come from the rarefied environment of elite music schools, but from a state comprehensive in Nottingham. How did they do it? Their mother, Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, opens up about what it takes to raise a musical family in a Britain divided by class and race. What comes out is a beautiful and heartrending memoir of the power of determination, camaraderie and a lot of hard work.
By Nataka Books 2022.