With a few more months to go until we say goodbye to 2017, we take a look at the African literary front and recommend five amazing books you should read before the year runs out, no more new year resolution excuses.
THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES BY LOLA SHONEYIN
To the dismay of her ambitious mother, Bolanle marries into a polygamous family, where she is the fourth wife of a rich, rotund patriarch, Baba Segi. She is a graduate and therefore a great prize, but even graduates must produce children and her husband’s persistent bellyache is a sign that things are not as they should be. Bolanle is too educated for the ‘white garment conmen’ Baba Segi would usually go to for fertility advice, so he takes her to the hospital to discover the cause of her barrenness. Weaving the voices of Baba Segi and his four competing wives into a portrait of a clamorous household of twelve, Lola Shoneyin evokes an extraordinary Nigerian family in splashes of vibrant colour.
THE CHIBOK GIRLS BY HELON HABILA
On 14th April 2014, 276 girls disappeared from a secondary school in northern Nigeria, kidnapped by the world’s deadliest terror group. A tiny number have escaped back to their families but over 200 remain missing.
Reporting from inside the traumatised and blockaded community of Chibok, Helon Habila tracks down the survivors and the bereaved. Two years after the attack, he bears witness to their stories and to their grief. And moving from the personal to the political, he presents a comprehensive indictment of Boko Haram, tracing the circumstances of their ascent and the terrible fallout of their ongoing presence in Nigeria.
WHEN WE SPEAK OF NOTHING BY OLUMIDE POPOOLA
Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near Kings Cross. It’s 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across London. Abu is infatuated with gorgeous classmate Nalini but dares not speak to her. Meanwhile, Karl is the target of the local “wannabe” thugs just for being different. When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he decides that Port Harcourt is the best place to escape the sound and fury of London, and connect with a Dad he’s never known. Rejected on arrival, Karl befriends Nakale, an activist who wants to expose the ecocide in the Niger Delta to the world, and falls headlong for his feisty cousin Janoma. Meanwhile, the murder of Mark Duggan triggers a full-scale riot in London. Abu finds himself in its midst, leading to a near-tragedy that forces Karl to race back home.
When We Speak of Nothing launches a powerful new voice onto the literary stage.The fluid prose, peppered with contemporary slang, captures what it means to be young, black and queer in London.
TOMORROW I’LL BE TWENTY ALAIN MABANCKOU
Michel is ten years old, living in Pointe Noire, Congo, in the 1970s. His mother sells peanuts at the market, his father works at the Victory Palace Hotel, and brings home books left behind by the white guests. Planes cross the sky overhead, and Michel and his friend Lounès dream about the countries where they’ll land.
While the news comes over the radio of the American hostage crisis in Tehran, the death of the Shah, the scandal of the Boukassa diamonds, Michel struggles with the demands of his twelve-year-old girlfriend Caroline, who threatens to leave him for a bully in the football team.
But most worrying for Michel, the witch doctor has told his mother that he has hidden the key to her womb, and must return it before she can have another child. Somehow he must find it. Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty is a humorous and poignant account of an African childhood, drawn from Alain Mabanckou’s life.
THE HAIRDRESSER OF HARARE BY TENDAI HUCHU
Vimbai is the star hairdresser of her salon, the smartest in Harare, Zimbabwe, until the enigmatic Dumisani appears. Losing many of her best customers to this good-looking, smooth-talking young man, Vimbai fears for her job, vital if she’s to provide for her young child. But in a remarkable reversal, the two becomes allies.
But disaster is near, as Vimbai soon uncovers Dumi’s secret, a discovery that will result in brutality and tragedy, testing their relationship to the very limit. The Hairdresser of Harare is a stylish, funny and sophisticated first-hand account of life today in Zimbabwe’s capital city, confounding stereotypes and challenging injustice with equal fearlessness. This is an upbeat, charming, but at times heartbreaking, the story of friendship, prejudice and forgiveness from the heart of contemporary Africa.