Introduction to African Women Writers: A List for A Reader

A first time visitor, Craig Brazier, left the following comment on this blog’s About page:

“I stumbled upon your blog while reading articles on Saramago. Very pleasantly surprised. I’ll be sticking around for a while. As a Canadian guy from Toronto, I have absolutely NO idea where to start with African women writers, as we don’t hear a whole lot about them over here (nice to see you have our Alice Munro on your nightstand). What, in your opinion, would be a good jumping-off point?”

Thank you, Craig.  It’s a very good question.  I’ve thought about this ‘good jumping-off point’ for a while now. Nay, I’ve obsessed about the ‘point’, not wanting to limit it to just one book.  That would be risky and besides, one book is no fun at all!

I’ve decided to answer Craig’s question with a syllabus for a university course titled Introduction to African Women Writers.  The course covers fiction, is regionally representative and provides a good breadth of themes.

Here’s the list:

  1. Distant View of a Minaret by Alifa Rifaat
  2. Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
  3. July’s People by Nadine Gordimer
  4. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
  5. No Sweetness Here and Other Stories by Ama Ata Aidoo
  6. On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe
  7. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie
  8. So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba
  9. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
  10. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
  11. Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana
  12. Women of Algiers in Their Apartment by Assia Djebar


This is just an overview in case anyone is wondering about certain absences from this list. Presumably there are other courses with their own lists somewhere on this blog.  I’m having too much fun, huh?

Craig, enjoy reading one, three or all of the books on this list.

(If anyone is interested, I think this is the post that brought Craig to Kinna Reads:  Saramago’s Best Five)

Now does anyone else want to take this course?



  1. Of course I’d take the course in a minute–assuming you’d be teaching. Since that’s not an option, I am going to post the list on my Global Women of Color. I’ve read half the books and plan to read the other half for your Africa Reading Challenge if I can find copies.


  2. I’m still fairly new to African literature. I’m glad to see that I have read 2 of these books, I own 2 of these books, and 1 other is already on my list of books to be purchased. From this, it seems that our tastes are similar so I will go ahead and add the others to my list of books to purchase as well.


  3. Great list! I’ve read July’s People, Purple Hibiscus and The Memory of Love and think they are all worthy reads. I have Black Sister Street on my wishlist, but the others are new to me. I’ll look them up 🙂


  4. Thank you for the list! Although I already read a few of them I’m still fairly new to AfricanLit but I love it so all help is welcome 🙂


  5. I’ve read only Chimamanda Adichie so I really appreciate you making this list. I’ve added every one of these to my TBR list!


  6. Are you taking names? Sounds good. I use librarything, and they have a ‘groups’ function where you can post about books. Their Africa / African American group is quite quiet just now though, but have still found some great reads that way.
    I was a member of a list (via H Net) last year which discussed a new book each month of African lit via group email. Having a deadline each month was motivating, and I read books (Life and a Half) that I never would have attempted otherwise.
    I’ve found blogs to be really helpful though in finding new books – and twitter, as many African publishers (such as Farafina) tempt me via my feed to add to my ‘to be read’ pile!
    I think also buying the Caine collection generally is a good ‘investment’ as often the chosen writers publish their short story collections / novels in subsequent years, and you know whose style you might like.


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