From Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ to Damilare Kuku’s ‘Nearly All the Men in Lagos Are Mad’ – which they are, by the way – African fiction in literature has truly come a long way.
Like most other literature, African books are divided into fiction and nonfiction. Hence, with so many writers springing up with their different interpretations of ‘authentic’ African stories, here is my book lover’s guide to African fiction.
This article will guide you through some of the best African fiction books out on these streets.
Best African fiction books to read
Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Adichie
Chimamanda Adichie’s second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, is set during the Nigerian Civil War that tragically occurred during the 1960s.
Each of the novel’s five main characters —Ugwu, Odenigbo, Olanna, Kainene, and Richard — is the focus of a tangled series of varying points of view that the author brilliantly weaves together. All of these characters become involved with the Biafran insurgents during the war, and this involvement eventually has an impact on each of them.
Ugwu, our first introduction to the story, becomes a houseboy for the Nsukka University professor, Odenigbo. The latter, an outspoken Igbo man, lives with his lover Olanna, and eventually, they get married. They also have a child whom they simply refer to as ‘Baby’, due to the professor’s infidelity.
Olanna’s sister Kainene falls in love with Richard Churchill, a British writer who is sincerely interested in Nigerian culture and has come to the nation to write a book about its ancient art.
The five major characters of the narrative originally had a lot of hope for the future of Biafra when it is revealed that the region will secede from Nigeria. Yet, as Nigeria launches an offensive against Biafra to retake its former territory, it gradually becomes clear that the insurgents have taken on too much. On both sides of the fight, the number of casualties rises, leading to widespread famine and malnutrition.
The book explores their travails and experiences together and as individuals.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a story of nationalism, strength, and bonds broken and unbroken. It is a great introduction to African fiction literature.
Nearly All the Men in Lagos Are Mad – Damilare Kuku
In this book, Damilare Kuku exposes Lagos men and drags them by their scrotums in this short collection of stories.
Described as brutally honest, insightful, and hilarious, this book exposes the funny but not-so-funny antics of Lagos men. But beautifully, the women did not take it lying down, they didn’t even take it sitting.
And nobody loves a book that exposes men and shows strong women more than this writer.
The Sex Lives of African Women – Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah
The Sex Lives of African Women is a sensitive and honest book that may be ahead of its time. With such a raunchy title, it’s no surprise that it takes us through the sensual world of African women.
A book where African women speak openly and invariably for the first time about their experiences of sex and relationships.
In this sweeping study of love, sex, identity, and desire, Ghanaian feminist writer and blogger Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah explores the lives of remarkable Black and Afro-descendant women. She developed the book from her blog, Adventures From the Bedrooms of African Women, based on in-depth interviews she conducted between 2015 and 2020, with women between the ages of twenty-one to seventy-one, from thirty-one countries across the globe.
The book employs a memoir-like interlude of the author’s romantic history to frame these 32 stories of freedom, healing, and self-discovery.
A Spell of Good Things: Ayobami Adebayo
If you are a lover of happy endings, you might not like this one.
A Spell of Good Things is a realistic representation of the dynamics of family and socio-economic classes in Nigeria. The book’s central character, Eniola, is a representation of many Nigerian children from lower-class families.
A tale of love, loyalty, determination, resilience, resignation, and spite.
Although the book was predictable at some point, the predictability added to the originality as many of us have seen, read, or heard different versions of such tales.
All in all, this is a piece of African fiction you should check out.
Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? – Lizzie Blackburn
Hilariously typical is what can describe this book. Goes to show that everything we say about African aunties is so true.
What is exciting about this book by Lizzie Blackburn is that it is so relatable. It truly depicts the reality of many Nigerian ladies who have no prospects for marriage at 25. The phrase ‘where is your huzband?’ is a perfect representation of what you would typically hear from family members and aunties that aren’t even related to you by blood.
A good read if you are into lighter fiction.
This book will make you laugh, cry, and get mad, and then it will have you falling in love too.
Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
The first installment of a trilogy and by far a favorite, Children of Blood and Bone is a marriage of culture and fantasy. Imagine Avatar, but for Yorubas.
Tomi Adeyemi masterfully told a story of fierce loyalty, heritage, heroism, and culture in this book. If your preferred genre is fantasy, then this book should tickle your fancy.
Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Adichie
The book tells of a family’s complex relationship with their patriarch. A loving father and doting husband to the rest of the world, but a monster behind closed doors all in the name of religion and discipline, the story is told through the eyes of Kambili, his 15-year-old daughter.
The entire book consists of the family’s search for freedom and it could be symbolic of the author’s home nation’s search for freedom from tyranny.
This piece of African fiction just goes to show you that Chimamanda Adichie is not a writer to be taken lightly.
Native Son – Richard Wright
Set in the depression era, Native son tells of a young black man, Bigger Thomas, who was born into a world with a very clear opinion about him because of the color of his skin.
A young black man in south side Chicago, who dreamt of working in aviation but instead got a job as a chauffeur for a white family, Bigger’s struggle for opportunities, education, decent living and to be seen as just a human was brilliantly captured in this book.
The eventual turn of events for Bigger was not a great one. On the run for murder and manslaughter, his tale in Native Son takes us through the mind of a young black man in America. It also captures the reaction of white people to the entire experience, as well as the American justice system.
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Things Fall Apart focuses on the Igbo culture and the sad downfall of the main character, Okonkwo.
Within the Igbo community of Umuofia in eastern Nigeria, Okonkwo is a well-liked and powerful figurehead. As he wins a wrestling match against Amalinze the Cat, he achieves personal glory and distinction, bringing respect to his clansmen. And despite his father’s shortcomings, Okonkwo is determined to acquire titles, grow rich, and become powerful.
Okonkwo was determined to stick to the ways of his ancestors and not to the dictates of the white man. However, he soon realized that his clansmen would surrender and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
The story captured the infiltration of the whites into African culture and traditions, using the Igbos as a case study. It is especially loved because it is a fictional account of a black man from a black man.
Our husband has gone mad again – Ola Rotimi
Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again is another African fiction literature classic.
This book employs humor to expose the ideological misfits and opportunists strutting the ever-accommodating political landscape of contemporary Africa. The politics following independence are the main topic of this drama.
As Nigeria gained its independence, several writers wrote to mock the governmental corruption of the time, as the post-independence era was corrupt, marked by treasury plundering. Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again was born during this extremely corrupt political period when politicians were focused on embezzling public funds.
The two-act drama also makes fun of polygamy and all of its negative effects.
Ola Rotimi’s book is a must-read. It explores the political and social corruption that goes on in the African political scene.