The New York Times’ book critic Janet Maslin is getting a bit of stick this week–as my English friends would say. Her annual summer reading list, some have pointed out, is entirely devoid of any non-white writers.
Now, there are a lot of books out there, and sometimes folks miss things. This is entirely understandable. And because we are appreciative of that fact here at Quartz Africa (which, in case you didn’t know, is launching on June 1st,) we just want to add on to Ms. Maslin’s list.
Our colleagues in India have already been generous enough to provide their recommendations. So here are some African writers you should look out for this summer as you head to the beach.
1. The Caine Prize for African Writing, launched in 2000, or the so-called “African Booker Prize,” has introduced the world to some of the best of African fiction over the years. Leila Aboulela. Binyavanga Wainaina. NoViolet Bulawayo. These are just a few of the former winners who are now giants in contemporary African letters. This year’s nominees have already been announced. The winner will be revealed in July, followed by a publication of the New Internationalist’s Caine Prize 2015 Anthology. Make sure to get your copy, because in that list will be the next great voice to emerge from the continent.
2. The Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah burst onto the literary scene in 2009 with her collection of stories “An Elegy for Easterly.” It won her much plaudits, including the Guardian First Book Award. After a few years of writing, Ms. Gappah will finally release her debut novel this August, “The Book of Memory” which she says is set in Salisbury and Harare between the 1960s and 2000s.
3. The next highly touted new voice coming out of Africa is the Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma. His novel “The Fisherman” published earlier this year, a “retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel,” is bringing some heat to this debut novelist. In fact, he is getting so much kudos that an authority no less than the New York Times has dubbed the man the heir to Chinua Achebe.
4. Guantanamo Bay has been a stain in America’s problematic efforts to fight the so-called global war on terror. A new account of life inside the prison is being described as an “extraordinary account of rendition, captivity and torture.” Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian, spent 13 years in captivity and he chronicles his experiences in the “Guantánamo Diary.” The Indian writer Pankaj Mishra, in his review, calls the book the true witness of the global war on terror. For that alone, it is worth reading.
5. Alain Mabanckou, the award-winning Congolese writer, is having his latest book The Lights of Pointe-Noire translated into English, to be published this month. He was recently short-listed for the International Man Booker Prize. Vanity Fair also named him one of the 50 writers to watch for this century. Well, if they say so, then surely, he is worth a read, no?
So here is just a short list for you to consider as you start to think about the books you’d like to spend your summer with. Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Please do share with us your recommendations by reaching out to us on Twitter @qzafrica.
One last tip, try and avoid books about Africa with covers that seem to be “designed by someone whose principal idea of the continent comes from The Lion King.“