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5 books by African women you have to read in 2020

by | Oct 11, 2020 | News

A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

A Girl is a Body of Water is a story about 12-year-old Kirabo, a young Ugandan girl who was determined to find her mother. Kirabo’s journey to reconcile her rebellious origins, alongside her desire to reconnect with her mother and to honour her family’s expectations, is rich in the folklore of Uganda and an arresting exploration of what it means to be a modern girl in a world that seems determined to silence women. This coming-of-age story also explores how women make other women suffer. We see feminism splinter along class lines, urban and rural lines, along differences of tribe and race. These many sometimes uncomfortable awakenings are woven into Kirabo’s own without once becoming dull anthropology or heartless manifesto. A Girl is a Body of Water is written by Ugandan novelist Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and was published by Tin House in January 2020.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

Cited as the Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by The New York Times, Marie Claire, BBC, and the Vogue Essence, The Girl with the Louding Voice is the story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village who longs to get an education so that she can find her “louding voice” and speak up for herself. As the only daughter of a broke father, fourteen-year-old Adunni is a valuable commodity. Removed from school and sold as a third wife to an old man, Adunni’s life amounts to this: four goats, two bags of rice, some chickens and a new TV. When unspeakable tragedy swiftly strikes in her new home, she is secretly sold as a domestic servant in the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, where no one will talk about the strange disappearance of her predecessor, Rebecca. No one but Adunni …As a yielding daughter, a subservient wife, and a powerless servant, Adunni is repeatedly told that she is nothing. But Adunni won’t be silenced. She is determined to find her voice.

The Girl with the Louding Voice is the debut novel of Nigerian writer Abi Dare, and was published in February 2020 by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Conjure Women is the debut novel of Afia Atakora. The book centres around a mother and daughter who have the gift of healing. Rue, falls under suspicion from her community when they come to fear the magical roots of her healing abilities after the birth of a seemingly abnormal child. Born in his caul, Bean, as Rue names him when his own mother rejects him, has eerie jet-black eyes, a perturbing wail, and seems immune to the sickness that plagues the other children of the village. With the help of Bruh Abel, a traveling preacher who has Rue in his thrall, she undertakes a scheme that will save her reputation.

Rue’s story is intertwined with flashbacks to the pre-Civil War past, where Rue’s mother May Belle, a midwife and mystic, passes on to Rue her gifts and curses in equal measure. Rue grows up alongside plantation owner Marse Charles’s daughter Varina, playmates even as Varina maintains her dominion over Rue. When Varina is raped by a Confederate soldier at a plantation ball, it is to Rue and May Belle that she turns, sealing their fates together. Conjure Women was published in April 2020 by Random House. Afia Atakora was born in the United Kingdom to Ghanaian parents.

The Dragons, The Giants, The Women by Wayetu Moore

The Dragons, the Giants, the Women is a memoir that details Wayetu Moore’s journey from childhood, to escaping the Liberian Civil War, her experience as a new immigrant to Texas, and returning to Liberia. When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunion her father promised her, war breaks out in Liberia. The family is forced to flee their home on foot, walking and hiding for three weeks until they arrive in the village of Lai. Finally, a rebel soldier smuggles them across the border to Sierra Leone, reuniting the family and setting them off on yet another journey, this time to the United States.

The book was published in June 2020 by Graywolf Press. Wayetu Moore is a Liberian-American writer whose debut novel, She Would Be King, was named a best book of 2018 by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Entertainment Weekly and BuzzFeed.

An Act of Defiance by Irene Sabatini

An Act of Defiance is the third book by Zimbabwean author, Irene Sabatini. Sabatini won the 2010 Orange Award for New Writers for her debut novel, The Boy Next Door. In An Act of Defiance, Sabatini addresses politics, love, and self-realisation through the eyes of Gabrielle and Ben, her main characters. Gabrielle is a newly-qualified lawyer, fighting for justice for a young girl. Ben is an urbane and charismatic junior diplomat, attached to Harare with the American embassy. With high-level pressure on Gabrielle to drop her case, and Robert Mugabe’s youth wing terrorising his political opponents as he tightens his grip on power, they begin a tentative love affair. But when they fall victim to a shocking attack, their lives splinter across continents and their stories diverge, forcing Gabrielle on a painful journey towards self-realisation. An Act of Defiance was published in March 2020 by Indigo Press.

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