It is the last month of the year and as is the custom of most readers, we are taking stock of African books and short stories that rocked our literary minds in 2017. Praxis spoke to some young African writers who shared with us their top three favourite reads of the year. Enjoy the list!
Lesley Nneka Arimah’s collection of stories, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is diverse and brings to the fore a myriad of issues about women in sharp prose. Her choice of words makes the prose sing. Living On The Edge is an autobiography by a Kenyan business man and conservatist. It’s exciting because we live in a country where only politicians bother to write their life stories, so it’s a breath of fresh air. The author has researched extensively on Kenya’s history and it’s also a rich source and a welcome addition to the histories of this nation. Stay With Me is a deliciously domestic tale. It forced me to look at those things I considered ‘mundane’ in relationships and families. And it’s given me a new pair of eyes with which to regard those friends and family who are dealing with chronic illnesses. It’s raw and tender and numerous at the same time.- Minage Gloria Mwaniga, Kenya
In Tea by T.J Benson (http://shortstorydayafrica.org/news/weekendread-tj-bensons-tea), distant worlds collide. A Nigerian woman and a German man begin a journey that will, forever, change the course of their lives. T.J Benson is a masterful word-weaver who blends the magic of a compelling narrative voice and engaging humor. Tea stands out even in the abundance of short stories written by Africans that capture “the migrant experience.” It is a story you will want to read while sipping a hot cup of Nigerian tea. Some Freedom Dreams (https://www.wasafiri.org/article/freedom-dreams-ndinda-kioko/) by Ndinda Kioko explores love sexuality, sensuality and the loss of a spouse using a delicate style; so simple and yet profound. Ndinda creates remarkable characters with effortless ease; characters that still linger with the reader long after reading. The twelve stories in Arimah’s debut anthology – What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky, transports her readers through realism, magical realism and urban fantasy. Lesley’s mastery of speculative fiction and realism and her ability to document the realities of human existence in both genres have endeared her to both local and international audience. The possibilities in the worlds of What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky, Who Will Greet You At Home and Second Chances are boundless and the narrative honesty in Light, War Stories and Wild is admirable.-Innocent Chizaram Illodianya, Nigeria
What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah was one of the most anticipated books by Africans this year. She writes like someone who has been in the business for a decade, which means writing fearlessly. Her stories are known for their unusual ‘turn of events’, some for their magical realism. But for me what I enjoyed in the collection was the sheer playfulness that ran all through. Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is another of my favourite. As someone who has read every book by Adichie, you’d expect me to mention her nonfiction epistolary work on feminism. One thing I loved about the book was that it took a supposedly serious topic as feminism in a humorous way and yet not demeaning the topic. Each advice in the book is practical. They reminded me of the blog style she employed in her other book, Americanah. I will recommend every male and female teenager in Nigeria to read that book. Lives of Great Men by Frankie Edozien, which I’m still reading, is hailed as the first ‘gay’ memoir, though I see it as a memoir and not just a ‘gay’ memoir. He dwells on every relationship in ways that avoids judgement and sentiment. Edozien can be very personal and delicate in ‘cringe-worthy’ ways, which is something we want from a memoir, isn’t it? Definitely he’s on my ever-growing list of writers whose future works I should watch out for.-Okwudili Nebolisa, Nigeria
Lesley Nneka Arimah is so original; I have never read anything like hers before. Whether she is tracing the arch of pain in a family lineage or writing about a mathematical solution for it, her stories in the collection, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky, are real. Akwaeke Emezi is fresh and her writing style seems entirely hers, one can’t trace influence. And it is this style that can only tell the kind of stories she has the audacity to tell, just as she did with Who is Like God.-Tj Benson, Nigeria
I would definitely say What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah for its inventiveness, and the way Arimah invents and reinvents our continent in new and magical ways that at the same time bring home to us the familiarity and the power of our home. Ice Cream Headache in My Bone by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers is a collection of poems that cuts and shapes and soothes the reader; that gives us a new tongue in which to speak to pain, and beauty and struggle. De Villiers transforms language and breathes new life into poetic forms. Naming by Umar Turaki, a short story published in the Short Story Day Africa anthology is one story that I have returned to again and again this year, for inspiration when I have writer’s block, and for the sheer genius of its form. With a whiplash ending, Turaki moves the reader to question everything she has read, inviting us through form so controlled and perfect that it reads like breathing. It is so unusual and beautiful; leaving one irrevocably changed and spoiled for further reading.-Megan Ross, South Africa