Someone out there is rolling their eyes at my obvious obsession with alliteration and seasonal reading. This year I started a Milton in May event, and then My Victorian Summer. I just couldn’t think of a better name for my two-month (or so) immersion in Africa, so An African Autumn it is.
For this project, I hope to read books about African history, classics written by Africans, and contemporary and classic novels taking place in Africa. Anything goes if it has something to do with Africa. My goal is to read as many as I can. These novels are, for the most part, shorter than the Victorian Summer novels I read had been. I have no idea how much of “Africa” I’ll read before I get tired of it, but I’m ready, right now, to read a lot.
I also intend to read other books during this time. My Classics Reading Group is reading Emma and then Silas Marner, and I’ve started The Monk for fun. I also will join the Meiji Classics Circuit tour. And I’ll read whatever I want on a whim.
I began this project after making my lists for the Orbis Terrarum challenge. For that challenge, one reads books written by authors from each continent. I’ve gone around the world and I’m back to Read Africa for my last two reads. Any books read that are listed under “Classics by Africans” will count for that challenge.
I’ll end this project sometime around Thanksgiving. I’ll have a wrap up post either before or after the holidays, depending on when I get the bulk of these reviews written.
If you want to join in and make this your project too, feel free to use the button, just mention that I’d started it, please. Make your own rules and time frame if you want.
Here are some books that I have on my radar for this summer.
- The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith (700 pages; nonfiction). I’ve started this book already, and it’s just what I need to get a better understanding of the last 50 years of African history. This context is necessary because so many of the modern classics assume an understanding of the historical context.
- West with the Night by Beryl Markham. True account of British-born Kenyan aviatrix. Suggested by Karen below.
- The World that Was Ours by Hilda Bernstein. True account of living in apartheid and being politically repressed by British-born political activist in South Africa. Suggested by Karen below.
Classics Written by Africans
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe [Nigeria]. The classic African novel. I read it in high school, but it’s definitely time for a reread.
- Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Njozi Adichie [Nigeria]. Book bloggers love this author. I haven’t yet read any by her yet, but I won a copy of Half a Yellow Sun from kiss a cloud!
- Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga [Zimbabwe]. Set in post-colonial Rhodesia (1960s), this novel is about a young adolescent coming to terms with her role as a woman in both a western and traditional society.
- Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiongo [Kenya]. A magical realism novel set in a fictional African kingdom. At more than 700 pages, I’m a bit intimidated by the length, but I am fascinated by the premise. Have you read it? Is it worth reading despite the length?
- Maru by Bessie Head [South Africa/Botwana]. A story about oppression and overcoming it in a small village.
- So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba [Senegal]. Told via a letter between two fictional women, this is about a woman’s reflections on the double standard between men and women Senegal, particularly in terms of a man taking a second wife.
- The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa [Angola]. A house gecko writes about his life and his house owner’s life in war-torn Angola.
- Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih [Sudan]. This was on my list earlier and I even checked it out, but I didn’t get it read. An Arabic novel exploring the conflicts between East and West.
- Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartery [Ghana]. A mystery in Ghana. Sounds like No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which I liked a lot, except it’s written by a native Ghanaian man.
- The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta [Nigeria]. Suggested by Yvonne below.
Contemporary and Classic Fiction About Africa by Non-Africans
- Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin. My book club is reading this at my suggestion, so I will be rereading it. A woman bakes cakes in the suffering Rwandan community.
- The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. A classic about the Congo. I think I read this in high school on my own but I didn’t “get” it at all.
- What is the What by Dave Eggers. Based on a real person, this is about a “lost boy” of Sudan.
- The Book of Secrets by M.G. Vassanji. Historical fiction about a colonial official in British East Africa at the turn of the last century.
Which of these have you read? Which should be a “must read” for me this summer?