Summer is around the corner and while you’re packing your bags for the group vacation that you and your friends have been planning for the last two years, there are a couple of books that deserve a spot in your carry-on.

Here are 12 African books you should plan on reading this summer!

One For Sorrow, Two For Joy by Marie-claire Amuah

It’s hard to plan your future when the ghosts of the past won’t leave you alone…

Stella tries very hard to be good. She tries not to be sassy, to answer back, to be noticed. Because when Stella’s father is angry, it’s like lightning and thunder and hailstones. All she can do is touch wood… or search for magpies. Two for joy.

But as Stella begins to build a new life, her past still haunts her. It will take all her grace, courage, and love to heal her wounds and break free.

Things They Lost by Okwiri Oduoh

Ayosa is a wandering spirit—joyous, exuberant, filled to the brim with longing. Her only companions in her grandmother’s crumbling house are as lonely as Ayosa herself: the ghostly Fatumas, whose eyes are the size of bay windows, who teach her to dance and wail at the death news; the Jolly-Annas, cruel birds who cover their solitude with spiteful laughter; the milkman, who never greets Ayosa and whose milk tastes of mud; and Sindano, the kind owner of a café no one ever visits. Unexpectedly, miraculously, one-day Ayosa finds a friend. Yet she is always fixed on her beautiful mama, Nabumbo Promise: a mysterious and aloof photographer, she comes and goes as she pleases, with no apology or warning.

Scissorwork by Uche Nduka

Scissorwork is a piercing adventure through fragmented and recombined political landscapes, shearing and weaving together American and Nigerian histories of resistance through an uncompromising consciousness that is erotically demanding as it is joyfully gratifying.

A Trail of Crab Tracks by Patrice Nganang

In A Trail of Crab Tracks, the third part of a magisterial trilogy by Patrice Nganang. For the first time, Nithap flies across the world to visit his son, Tanou, in the United States. After countless staticky phone calls and transatlantic silences, he has agreed to leave Bangwa: the city in western Cameroon where he has always lived, where he became a doctor and, despite himself, a rebel, where he fell in love, and where his children were born. When illness extends his stay, his son finds an opportunity to unravel the history of the mysterious man who raised him, following the trail of crab tracks to discover the truth of his father and his country.

At last, Nithap’s throat clears and his voice rises, and he drifts back in time to tell his son the story that is burned into his memory and into the land he left behind. He speaks about the civil war that tore Cameroon apart, about the great men who lived and died, about his soldiers, his martyrs, and his great loves. As the tale unfolds, Tanou listens to his father tell the history of his family and the prayer of the blood-soaked land.

Why Do You Dance When You Walk? by Abdourahman A. Waberi

One morning in Paris on the way to kindergarten, a little girl asks her father “Papa, why do you dance when you walk?” The question is innocent and serious. Why does her father limp, why can’t he ride a bicycle or a scooter? Her father feels compelled to answer, to bring back the memories of his childhood in Djibouti and tell her what happened to his leg. It was a place of sunlight and dust and sickness, a sickness that made him different, unique. They called him a skinflint and a runt, but he was the smartest kid in his school.

Waberi remembers the shifting desert of Djibouti, the Red Sea, the shanty roofs of the houses in his neighborhood, immense loneliness, and some unforgettable characters: Papa-la-Tige who sold baubles to tourists, his tough, silent mother Zahra who trembled, and his grandmother nicknamed Cochise. He tells of the moment when his life changed forever and the ensuing struggle that made him a man, a man who knows the value of poetry, silence, and freedom, and a man who is still dancing.

Harry Sylvester Bird by Chinelo Okaparanta

Harry Sylvester Bird grows up in Edward, Pennsylvania, with his parents, Wayne and Chevy, whom he greatly dislikes. They’re racist, xenophobic, financially incompetent, and they have quite a few secrets of their own. To Harry, they represent everything wrong with this country. And his small town isn’t any better. He witnesses racial profiling, graffitied swastikas, and White Power signs on his walk home from school. He can’t wait until he’s old enough to leave. When he finally is, he moves straight to New York City, where he feels he can finally live out his true inner self.

In the city, he meets and falls in love with Maryam, a young Nigerian woman. But when Maryam begins to pull away, Harry is forced to confront his identity as he never has before—if he can.

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro

Funmi, Enitan, and Zainab first meet at university in Nigeria and become friends for life despite their differences. Funmi is beautiful, brash, and determined; Enitan is homely and eager, seeking escape from her single mother’s smothering and needy love; Zainab is elegant and reserved, raised by her father’s first two wives after her mother’s death in childbirth. Their friendship is complicated but enduring, and over the course of the novel, the reader learns about their loves and losses. How Funmi stole Zainab’s boyfriend and became pregnant, only to have an abortion and lose the boyfriend to police violence. How Enitan was seduced by an American Peace Corps volunteer, the only one who ever really saw her, but is culturally so different from him—a Connecticut WASP—that raising their daughter together put them at odds. How Zainab fell in love with her teacher, a friend of her father’s, and ruptured her relationship with her father to have him.

Now, some thirty years later, the three women are reunited for the first time, in Lagos. The occasion: Funmi’s daughter, Destiny, is getting married. Enitan brings her American daughter, Remi. Zainab travels by bus, nervously leaving her ailing husband in the care of their son. Funmi, hosting the weekend with her wealthy husband, wants everything to go perfectly. But as the big day approaches, it becomes clear that something is not right. As the novel builds powerfully, the complexities of the mothers’ friendship—and the private wisdom each has earned—come to bear on a riveting, heartrending moment of decision.

Patience is A Subtle Thief by Abi-Ishola Ayodeji

For as long as she can remember, Patience Adewale, the eldest daughter of Chief Kolade Adewale, has been waiting for confirmation that she is loved, that there is a place where she truly belongs. Patience lives a sheltered life within the secure walls of the family’s mansion in Ibadan, but finds no comfort from her distant father and stepmother Modupe. Her only ally is her younger sister, yet even Margaret’s love and support cannot overcome Patience’s insecurity and uncertainty.

More than anything, Patience wants to know why her father and uncle banished her mother from their compound years ago–and whether her mother is even alive. Determined to discover the truth, Patience embarks on a desperate search to find her mother. Answers begin to surface when she moves to Lagos for university and unexpectedly reconnects with her cousin Kash.

Kash and his friend Emeka are petty thieves with an opportunity to make a big score. To pull it off they need help–and enlist Patience and Emeka’s straight-arrow brother, Chike, to become partners in their scheme. The thieves’ plan is to quit after this job. But unforeseen events lead to unexpected consequences–and demand a price from Patience that may be too steep to pay.

Suspenseful and evoking the subtleties of Nigerian life in an fresh and unexpected way, Patience Is a Subtle Thief is a heart-wrenching story of one young woman’s precarious journey to adulthood, and the risks and sacrifices it takes to follow her heart.

On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi

Ghanaian-American Angie Appiah has checked off all the boxes for the “Perfect Immigrant Daughter.”

  • Enroll in an elite medical school
  • Snag a suitable lawyer/doctor/engineer boyfriend
  • Surround self with a gaggle of successful and/or loyal friends

But then it quickly all falls apart: her boyfriend dumps her, she bombs the most important exam of her medical career, and her best friend pulls away. And her parents, whose approval seems to hinge on how closely she follows the path they chose, are a lot less proud of their daughter. It’s a quarter life crisis of epic proportions.

Angie, who has always faced her problems by working “twice as hard to get half as far,” is at a loss. Suddenly, she begins to question everything: her career choice, her friendships, even why she’s attracted to men who don’t love her as much as she loves them. And just when things couldn’t get more complicated, enter Ricky Gutierrez— brilliant, thoughtful, sexy, and most importantly, seems to see Angie for who she is instead of what she can represent.

Unfortunately, he’s also got “wasteman” practically tattooed across his forehead, and Angie’s done chasing mirages of men. Or so she thinks. For someone who’s always been in control, Angie realizes that there’s one thing she can’t plan on: matters of her heart.

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola

Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. An expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show, Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the Afro-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show and her reputation on the brink. They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before and a player like Malakai, no matter how charming he is or how incredible their connection is, won’t be the one to change that.

After surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions, is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again. It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu

In nine exhilarating stories of queer love in contemporary Nigeria, God’s Children Are Little Broken Things announces the arrival of a daring new voice in fiction. A man revisits the university campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then. A young musician rises to fame at the price of pieces of himself, and the man who loves him. Arinze Ifeakandu explores with tenderness and grace the fundamental question of the heart: can deep love and hope be sustained in spite of the dominant expectations of society, and great adversity.

Courtsey: Brittle Paper

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