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Top 12 Books Every African Should Read in their Lifetime

1. LONG WALK TO FREEDOM- Nelson Mandela 

Long Walk to Freedom is an autobiographical work written by South African President Nelson Mandela. The book profiles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison. Under the apartheid government, Mandela was regarded as a terrorist and jailed on the infamous Robben Island for his role as a leader of the then-outlawed ANC. He has since achieved international recognition for his leadership as president in rebuilding the country’s once segregated society. The last chapters of the book describe his political ascension, and his belief that the struggle continues against apartheid in South Africa.

2. ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY- Alex Haley 

Through the story of one family—his family—Alex Haley unforgettably brings to life the monumental two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the six generations who came after him: slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lumber mill workmen and Pullman porters, lawyers and architects . . . and one author.

A national and international phenomenon at the time of its original publication, Roots continues to enthrall readers with its masterful narrative drive and exceptional emotional power, speaking to us all with an undiminished resonance and relevance.

3. NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS

Frederick Douglass Book coverFrederick Douglass was born in slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near Easton in Talbot County, Maryland.  As a young boy he was sent to Baltimore, to be a house servant, where he learned to read and write. In 1838, he escaped from slavery and went to New York City, where he married Anna Murray, and changed his name to Frederick Douglass.  He was such an impressive orator that numerous persons doubted if he had ever been a slave. In his later years, he was secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission, Marshall and recorder of deeds of the District of Columbia, and United States Minister to Haiti. His other works are: My Bondage And My Freedom and Life And Times Of Frederick Douglass, published in 1855 and 1881 respectively. He died in 1895.

4. HALF OF A YELLOW SUN- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The novel takes place in Nigeria prior to and during the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70). The effect of the war is shown through the dynamic relationships of five people’s lives including twin daughters of an influential businessman, a professor, a British citizen, and a houseboy. After Biafra’s declaration of secession, the lives of the main characters drastically changed and were torn apart by the brutality of the civil war and decisions in their personal lives.

The book jumps between events that took place during the early 1960s and the late 1960s, when the war took place, and extends until the end of the war. In the early 1960s, the main characters are introduced: Ugwu, a 13-year-old village boy who moves in with Odenigbo, to work as his houseboy. Odenigbo frequently entertains intellectuals to discuss the political turmoil in Nigeria. Life changes for Ugwu when Odenigbo’s girlfriend, Olanna, moves in with them. Ugwu forms a strong bond with both of them, and is very loyal. Olanna has a twin sister, Kainene, a woman with a dry sense of humor, tired by the pompous company she runs for her father. Her lover Richard is an Englishman who has come to Nigeria to explore Igbo-Ukwu art.

5. HOW EUROPE UNDERDEVELOPED AFRICA- Walter Rodney

First published in 1972, the book was enormously influential in the study of African history. In the late 1990s many academics became more sharply critical of the book’s central thesis and argued that the book oversimplifies the complex historical forces surrounding the colonial era. This book was groundbreaking in that it was among the first to bring a new perspective to the question of underdevelopment in Africa. Rodney’s analysis went far beyond the heretofore accepted approach in the study of Third World underdevelopment and it was met with heavy criticism.
Rodney believed that the only path to true human development and liberation for the majority of the people of his country was through the transformation of their own lives in a struggle to replace and reshape the neo-colonialist government that dominated their society and prescribed their existence.

Rodney’s voice was not confined to Africa and the Caribbean but was also heard in the U.S. and Europe. In the early-mid 1970s, he participated in discussions and lectures with the African Heritage Studies Association at Howard University; the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta, GA; the African Studies and Research Center at Cornell University; and the State University of New York at Binghamton.

6. BONES- Chenjerai Hove

The book has many voices and is based on the Shona tradition of interactive storytelling around a fire and each person listen while the storyteller speaks. Marita is the main character a woman who has been shunned by society when she cannot conceive. A woman’s identity is deeply rooted in motherhood and she has a son whom she is searching for. She bears the burden of womanhood, loss of son and illiteracy and poverty at the hands of her cruel employer Manyepo (Liar) the white farmer who constantly verbally abuses her and others. She is outspoken contrary to tradition which believes that women are to be seen and not heard. She humanizes the struggles of the forgotten people in society that has moved on while others are let behind searching for answers and a way forward. “Many scars, many wounds which are as big as Chenhero dam…” Marita is courageous to break her silence and challenge the status quo. She is not a complainer, just a woman who is searching for her son. She forges a relationship with a young lady in which she is like the mother in law to the Janifa whom her son once wrote a love letter to. The love letter is the means by which they connect and what holds their hope and her connection to the future.
This book gives an insight in the conditions on a colonial farm where there is total disregard for human life. The story of the father who works at the sugar plantation and angers his foreman is thrown into the fire. The life of a father has little value to the plantation owner but when he disappears there are not consequences but the family is left grieving, they have no voice. Silence is a prevailing theme in the book that aims to tell the story of the forgotten people on Zimbabwean commercial farms and gives a glimpse of the terrible conditions that existed even when people were ‘free’.

7. LEFT TO TELL: DISCOVERING GOD AMIDST THE RWANDAN HOLOCAUST- Immaculee Ilibagiza

Left To Tell by Immaculée IlibagizaImmaculee shares her miraculous story of how she survived during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 when she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house for 91 days! In this captivating and inspiring book, Immacuee shows us how to embrace the power of prayer, forge a profound and lasting relationship with God, and discover the importance of forgiveness and the meaning of truly unconditional love and understanding—through our darkest hours.

Immaculée Ilibagiza was born in Rwanda and studied electronic and mechanical engineering at the National University. She lost most of her family during the 1994 genocide. Four years later, she emigrated to the United States and began working at the United Nations in New York City. She is now a full-time public speaker and writer. In 2007 she established the Left to Tell Charitable Fund, which helps support Rwandan orphans.

Immaculée holds honorary doctoral degrees from The University of Notre Dame and Saint John’s University, and was awarded The Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace 2007. She is the author, with Steve Erwin, of LEFT TO TELL: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.

8. THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND- William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba was born August 5, 1987 in Dowa, Malawi, and grew up on his family farm in Masitala Village, Wimbe, two and half hours northeast of Malawi’s capital city. The second eldest of Trywell and Agnes Kamkwamba’s seven children, William has six sisters. William was educated at Wimbe Primary School, completing 8th grade and was then accepted to Kachokolo secondary school. Due to severe famine in 2001, his family lacked the funds to pay the $80 in annual school fees and William was forced to drop out of school a few months into his freshman year. For five years he was unable to go to school. However, at 14 William started borrowing books from a small community lending library located at his former primary school. He borrowed an 8th grade American textbook called Using Energy, which depicted wind turbines on its cover. From this book he harnessed the idea to build a windmill to power his family’s home and obviate the need for kerosene, which provided only smoky, flickering, distant and expensive light after dark. First he built a prototype using a radio motor, then his initial 5-meter windmill out of a broken bicycle, tractor fan blade, old shock absorber, and blue gum trees. After hooking the windmill to a car battery for storage, William was able to power four light bulbs and charge neighbors’ mobile phones. This system was even equipped with homemade light switches and a circuit breaker made from nails, wire, and magnets. The windmill was later extended to 12 meters to better catch the wind above the trees. A third windmill pumped grey water for irrigation.

9. THE MISEDUCATION OF THE NEGRO- Carter Godwin Woodson

The thesis of Dr. Woodson’s book is that African-Americans of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught, in American schools. This conditioning, he claims, causes African-Americans to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. He challenges his readers to become autodidacts and to “do for themselves”, regardless of what they were taught: History shows that it does not matter who is in power… those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.

10. YOU MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN- Wole Soyinka 

124334The first African to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, as well as a political activist of prodigious energies, Wole Soyinka now follows his modern classic Ake: The Years of Childhood with an equally important chronicle of his turbulent life as an adult in (and in exile from) his beloved, beleaguered homeland.
In the tough, humane, and lyrical language that has typified his plays and novels, Soyinka captures the indomitable spirit of Nigeria itself by bringing to life the friends and family who bolstered and inspired him, and by describing the pioneering theater works that defied censure and tradition. Soyinka not only recounts his exile and the terrible reign of General Sani Abacha, but shares vivid memories and playful anecdotes–including his improbable friendship with a prominent Nigerian businessman and the time he smuggled a frozen wildcat into America so that his students could experience a proper Nigerian barbecue.
More than a major figure in the world of literature, Wole Soyinka is a courageous voice for human rights, democracy, and freedom. You Must Set Forth at Dawn is an intimate chronicle of his thrilling public life, a meditation on justice and tyranny, and a mesmerizing testament to a ravaged yet hopeful land.

11. A MAN OF THE PEOPLE- Chinua Achebe

A Man of the People (1966) is the fourth novel by Chinua Achebe. This satirical novel is a story told by the young and educated narrator, Odili, on his conflict with Chief Nanga, his former teacher who enters a career in politics in an unnamed modern African country. Odili represents the changing younger generation; Nanga represents the traditional customs of Nigeria. The book ends with a military coup, similar to the real-life coups of Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Yakubu Gowon.

12. A GRAIN OF WHEAT- Ngugi wa Thiong’o

The novel weaves together several stories set during the state of emergency in Kenya’s struggle for independence (1952–59), focusing on the quiet Mugo, whose life is ruled by a dark secret. The plot revolves around his home village’s preparations for Kenya’s independence day celebration, Uhuru day. On that day, former resistance fighters General R and Koinandu plan on publicly executing the traitor who betrayed Kihika (a heroic resistance fighter hailing from the village).

 

Source: globalblackhistory

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