10 Most Challenged And Controversial African Literature Books

Take an ordinary novel, add a dash of racism, homosexuality, an utterance of tribalism, a spell of supernatural weirdness and a sprinkling of salty language and what do you get?

A best-seller, probably. And, almost certainly, a book that someone somewhere will argue shouldn’t be found anywhere near a library shelf.

In this vein, welcome the Banned Books Week guys, an annual national celebration of, ” your freedom to read.”

Banned Books Week also is that time each year when book-loving people become astounded at the books that have been challenged for one reason or another at libraries across the country and marvel at how anybody could have a problem with Things fall apart or even petals of blood.

Here are some banned and controversial African literature books for your reading pleasure.

1. Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)


The gist: One of the most celebrated pieces of African literature, Achebe’s story of Okonkwo, a leader and local wrestling champion in Umofia recalls the influences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his traditional Igbo community.

Why was it banned? Reportedly banned in Malaysia and in Nigeria, for its portrayal of colonialism and its consequences. In 2012 it made the list of works that were challenged in Texas schools.

2. The Man Died by Wole Soyinka. (1972)



The gist: The Nobel Prize-winning African writer, Wole Soyinka, was imprisoned without trial by the federal authorities at the start of the Nigerian Civil War. Here he records his arrest and interrogation, the efforts made to incriminate him, and the searing mental effects of solitary confinement.

Why was it banned? Banned for Libel by the Nigerian Government.

3. July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. (1981)



The gist: The novel is set during a fictional civil war in which black South Africans have violently overturned the system of apartheid. Gordimer wrote the book before the end of apartheid as her prediction of how it would end.

Why was it banned? Banned by the apartheid government and censored by the post-apartheid government. It was removed from school reading list for being ‘deeply racist, superior and patronising’.

4. Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. (1977)


The gist:  Set in Kenya just after independence, the story follows four characters – Munira, Abdulla, Wanja, and Karega – whose lives are intertwined due to the Mau Mau rebellion. In order to escape city life, each retreats to the small, pastoral village of Ilmorog. As the novel progresses, the characters deal with the repercussions of the Mau Mau rebellion as well as with a new, rapidly westernizing Kenya.

Why was it banned? It was banned because it ridiculed and attacked the Kenyan government. Ngugi was arrested and detained for writing this book by the Kenyan Government.

5. The Repudiation by Rashid Boudjedra. (1981)

The gist: Written in Arabic, this book documents the lives of people from the home to the nation-state. It focuses on religion, sex and sexual orientation, the state, plight and rights of women in a patriarchal state.

Why was it banned? Perhaps it was banned because of the language and explicit sexual description and content. Banned by the Algerian Government and it occasioned a fatwa on the author.

6. Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih. (1966)

The gist: This book explore the theme of cultural hybridity, cross-colonial experiences, and orientalism.

Why was it banned? This book was banned by the Islamic Government of Sudan for explicit sexual content. It has, however, been declared the most important Arabic novel of the 20th Century.

7. The Beautyful Ones are not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah. (1989)

The gist: This novel catapulted the author Ayi Kwei Armah into limelight. The novel is generally a satirical attack on the Ghanaian government

Why was it banned? Banned for racial oppression.

8. Knowledge at Night by Andre Brink. (1972)

This book won an award for the best Afrikaans work of 1972 and became a best seller before it was banned. The 500-page novel includes two of the most explosive topics in South Africa: sex between races and police treatment of nonwhites.

Why was it banned? Banned perhaps for racial issues by the Government. This book was translated by the author and published in English as “Looking into Darkness“. It is the first Afrikaan book to be banned by the apartheid Government.

9. Blame Me on History by William “Bloke” Modisane. (1990)

The gist: This book detailed the author’s despair at the bulldozing of Sophiatown and with apartheid.

Why was it banned? Banned for Libel by the Nigerian Government.

10. The Blinkards by Kobina Sekyi. (Year unknown)

The gist: The Blinkards is a satirical play written in English and interspersed with Fanti  (but the fanti’s have been translated). The book tells of the consequences of blindly mimicking the European culture.

Why was it banned? Banned by the government, librarians, and publishers for offensive language and sexual content. It was later unbanned in 2001.



Written by PH

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