Fiction can be a revealing window into cultures that are unfamiliar to us — and reading the work of an author who lives in another country or was born across the world from us can elucidate a different point of view. Whether it be a country’s political situation, the lexicon, the history, or the people, immersing oneself in the fiction of a specific nation, region, or even an entire content can provide an opportunity to better understand other places and experiences. And, as a recent New York Times article noted, this is an especially great time for literature from Africa and by authors who were born there:
The flowering of new African writers is “an amazing phenomenon,” said Manthia Diawara, a professor of comparative literature and film at New York University. “It is a literature more about being a citizen of the world — going to Europe, going back to Lagos,” he said. “Now we are talking about how the West relates to Africa and it frees writers to create their own worlds. They have several identities and they speak several languages.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helen Oyeyemi, Ishmael Beah, NoViolet Bulawayo, and other African-born writers who have experienced success in America are all cited, including Lagos-born Teju Cole, who took to Twitter to point out something the article touches on a bit, but that deserves extra emphasis: “too many literary publishers would rather put out work by writers from Africa than work by African-Americans because in the current climate the Africans are considered more appealing for what is seen as a ‘black slot.'”
As that very necessary conversation — about a sad reality that the publishing world needs to address immediately — continues, the fact remains that an abundance of fantastic literature is coming out of Africa right now. That’s something to celebrate, so to help you do that, we offer a few other suggestions of African-born writers whose work you should seek out.
A. Igoni Barrett
After putting out one of our favorite short story collections of 2013, this Nigerian-born author has us anxiously awaiting his next book.
Currently living in the States as the Helen Zell Writer at the University of Michigan, this Nigerian writer caught our attention with his story at VQR. Now, we’re sitting by the mailbox, anticipating our advance copy of his novel, The Fisherman, out in 2015 via Little, Brown.
This Zimbabwean author’s semi-autobiographical 1988 debut, Nervous Conditions, which explores her post-colonial home in the 1960s, is considered one of the best and most important African novels of the last 30 years. More recently, Dangarembga has turned her attention more towards filmmaking.
We loved the South African-born Vladislavic’s latest, The Restless Supermarket, featuring a protagonist who called to mind “a post-apartheid Archie Bunker.”
Considered by Time to be one of the 100 Most Important People in the World, and referred to as “the best-known Kenyan writer of his generation” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wainana’s writing might only be surpassed by his fearlessness.
Although she lives and teaches in Scotland now, Wicomb’s native South Africa, and the things she experienced there growing up during the apartheid era, are explored in her fiction, which has most recently been championed by the people at The New Press.
Although Laye is no longer with us, it seemed unthinkable not to mention him. He’s routinely compared to Kafka and loved by Toni Morrison — and NYRB Classics did the English-speaking world a favor by putting his 1956 work of Francophone African literature, The Radiance of the King, back onto bookshelves.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
We’re currently waiting for the follow-up to this Nigerian author’s wonderful 2009 debut, I Do Not Come to You by Chance. But in the meantime, she’s been keeping busy with fascinating pieces like this one, on how Nigeria will bid farewell to Chinua Achebe.