In honor of the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, being held in Washington, D.C. this week, our curated list this week highlights Africa. Click on any book to see its page or buy on Amazon.com.
Things Fall Apart – Nigeria Okonkwo is the greatest warrior alive, famous throughout West Africa. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his world thrown radically off-balance he can only hurtle towards tragedy. Chinua Achebe’s stark novel reshaped both African and world literature. This arresting parable of a proud but powerless man witnessing the ruin of his people begins Achebe’s landmark trilogy of works chronicling the fate of one African community, continued in Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease
My Traitor’s Heart – South Africa A classic of literary nonfiction, My Traitor’s Heart has been acclaimed as a masterpiece by readers around the world. Rian Malan is an Afrikaner, scion of a centuries-old clan and relative of the architect of apartheid, who fled South Africa after coming face-to-face with the atrocities and terrors of an undeclared civil war between the races. This book is the searing account of his return after eight years of uneasy exile. Armed with new insight and clarity, Malan explores apartheid’s legacy of hatred and suffering, bearing witness to the extensive physical and emotional damage it has caused to generations of South Africans on both sides of the color line. Plumbing the darkest recesses of the white and black South African psyches, Malan ultimately finds his way toward the light of redemption and healing. My Traitor’s Heart is an astonishing book — beautiful, horrifying, profound, and impossible to put down.
In the “brilliant novel” (The New York Times) V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man—an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation. Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditions. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked A Bend in the River #83 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1979.
Winner of the Booker Prize and later awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Coetzee’s novel follows a disgraced university lecturer, David Lurie, who is forced out of his post after an affair and is beginning to come to terms with his powerlessness. Bleak and powerful, with just a hint of the possibility of redemption.
A beautiful description of growing up in Gaddaffi’s Libya finds nine-year-old Sulaiman trying to make sense of a life where his father is a dissident and his mother on drugs. Meanwhile, the police are closing in.
First published in French in 1973 and later translated into English in 1976, Xala is the story of El Hadji Kader Beye, a Muslim business man living in Dakar, Senegal, and the misfortune he suffers after his third marriage. The novel follows several weeks in El Hadji’s life and his “rapid decline from affluence to total humiliation and ruin.”
With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.
Palace Walk is the first novel in Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent Cairo Trilogy, an epic family saga of colonial Egypt that is considered his masterwork.
The novels of the Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons—the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. The family’s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two world wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries.
Since its publication in hardcover, Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love has been hailed as a book of rare beauty and importance, and has been shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction and selected for the January 2011 Indie Next List. With astounding depth and elegance, it takes the reader through the haunting atmosphere of a country at war, delicately intertwining the powerful stories of two generations.
In contemporary Freetown, a devastating civil war has left an entire populace with secrets to keep. In the capital hospital Kai, a gifted young surgeon is plagued by demons that are beginning to threaten his livelihood. Elsewhere in the hospital lies Elias Cole, a man who has stories to tell from the country’s turbulent postcolonial years that are far from heroic. As past and present intersect, Kai and Elias are drawn unwittingly closer by Adrian, a British psychiatrist with good intentions, and into the path of one woman at the center of their stories. A work of breathtaking writing and rare wisdom, The Memory of Love seamlessly weaves together the lives of these three men to create a story of loss, absolution, and the indelible effects of the past—and the very nature of love.
The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Botswana Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, and good humor—not to mention help from her loyal assistant, Grace Makutsi, and the occasional cup of tea.