Tag: Chinua Achebe

BOOKS: 13 Must-Reads by Black Authors to Add To Your Library

In light of the recent events surrounding racial and social injustice around the country, knowing our history, as part of our eternal quest to “stay woke,” is more important than ever. While many of us are experiencing a new movement unfolding right before our eyes, scholars, experts and even regular folks with stories to tell, have been putting their experiences to the page to enlighten generations.

The publishing industry suffers from the same lack of diversity and racial biases that plague society at large. While many books don’t make school reading lists or even the New York Times Bestsellers List, there are countless classics that break down the Black experience in America.

It’s hardly a complete list, which could go on for volumes, but it’s a great starting point:

1. The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson

Portrait of Carter Woodson
Carter Woodson (Source: Hulton Archive / Getty)

This book is of primary importance in understanding the legacy of slavery and how it affects Black Americans’ perspectives in society. The book essentially argues that Black Americans are not educated, but rather conditioned in American society. It challenges Black Americans to “do for themselves” outside of the constructs that are set up for them.

2. And Still I RiseMaya Angelou

Maya Angelou Signs Copies Of 'Maya Angelou: Letter to My Daughter' - October 30, 2008
Maya Angelou (Source: Jemal Countess / Getty)

This is one of the most affirming books you will ever read. Technically, it is a collection of poems which focus on hope, determination and overcoming struggle. It contains one of Angelou’s most famous poems, Phenomenal Woman.

3. The Souls of Black FolkW. E. B. Du Bois

Portrait of W.E.B. DuBois
W.E.B. DuBois (Source: Underwood Archives / Getty)

One of the most important books on race in sociology and African-American studies, it is a collection of essays that Du Bois wrote by drawing from his personal experiences. Two of the most profound social concepts – The Veil And Double Consciousness were written about in this book which have come to be widely known as part of the experience of being Black in America.

4. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
'The Color Purple' TimesTalks: Jennifer Hudson, Cynthia Erivo, Alice Walker, John Doyle
Alice Walker (Source: D Dipasupil / Getty)

You may have seen the movie from Steven Spielberg or the recent Broadway musical, but I highly encourage you read this powerful novel, too. The book explores in depth the low position Black women are given in society through the lens of a particular group of women. The story explores both interpersonal turmoil and socially-inflicted violence toward Black women, as well as the bonds they share.

5. Things Fall ApartChinua Achebe

NIGERIA-LITERATURE-BOOK-CULTURE-ACHEBE-FUNERAL
Chinua Achebe (Source: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / Getty)

This book is among the most critically acclaimed ever written by an African author. Through the character Okonkwo, his family and the experiences of his village, Achebe tells the tale of colonization and its effects on African communities, particularly in Nigerian traditional social life.  Continue reading “BOOKS: 13 Must-Reads by Black Authors to Add To Your Library”

New Wave of African Writers with an Internationalist Bent

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the premiere, in Lagos, Nigeria, of the film “Half of a Yellow Sun,” based on her novel. (Credit: Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters)

More than a decade ago, when the young Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was struggling to get her first novel, “Purple Hibiscus,” published, an agent told her that things would be easier “if only you were Indian,” because Indian writers were in vogue. Another suggested changing the setting from Nigeria to America. Ms. Adichie didn’t take this as commentary on her work, she said, but on the timidity of the publishing world when it came to unknown writers and unfamiliar cultures, especially African ones.

These days she wouldn’t receive that kind of advice. Black literary writers with African roots (though some grew up elsewhere), mostly young cosmopolitans who write in English, are making a splash in the book world, especially in the United States. They are on best-seller lists, garner high profile reviews and win major awards, in America and in Britain. Ms. Adichie, 36, the author of “Americanah,” which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction this year, is a prominent member of an expanding group that includes Dinaw Mengestu, Helen Oyeyemi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Taiye Selasi, among others.

The Ethiopian-born novelist Dinaw Mengestu in 2010, when his book “How to Read the Air” was published. (Credit: Ed Ou for The New York Times)

There are reasons for the critical mass now, say writers, publishers and literature scholars. After years of political and social turmoil, positive changes in several African nations are helping to greatly expand the number of writers and readers. Newer awards like the Caine Prize for African Writing have helped, too, as have social media, the Internet and top M.F.A. programs. At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, black writers with recent African roots will make up more than 10 percent of the fiction students come September. Moreover, the number of African immigrants in the United States has more than quadrupled in the past two decades, to almost 1.7 million.

And publishing follows trends: Women, Asian-American, Indian and Latino writers have all been “discovered” and had their moment in the sun — as have African-Americans, some of whom envy the attention given to writers with more recent links in Africa.

“People used to ask where the African writers were,” said Aminatta Forna, author of “The Hired Man” (2013, set in Croatia). “They were cleaning offices and working as clerks.”

Some writers and critics scoff at the idea of lumping together diverse writers with ties to a diverse continent. But others say that this wave represents something new in its sheer size, after a long fallow period. (There were some remarkable exceptions, like Wole Soyinka’s 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature and Ben Okri’s 1991 Booker Prize.) And it differs from the postcolonial wave, roughly beginning in the 1960s, which brought international acclaim to writers like Chinua Achebe and Nuruddin Farah, among others.

Continue reading “New Wave of African Writers with an Internationalist Bent”

R.I.P. Nigerian Novelist Chinua Achebe, Grandfather of African Literature

Chinua Achebe in 2008 at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where he was a professor at the time.(Craig Ruttle/Associated Press)

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, widely seen as the grandfather of modern African literature, has died at the age of 82.  From the publication of his first novel, “Things Fall Apart”, over 50 years ago, Achebe shaped an understanding of Africa from an African perspective more than any other author.  As a novelist, poet, broadcaster and lecturer, Achebe was a yardstick against which generations of African writers have been judged. For children across Africa, his books have for decades been an eye-opening introduction to the power of literature.

Describing Achebe as a “colossus of African writing”, South African President Jacob Zuma expressed sadness at his death. Nelson Mandela, who read Achebe’s work in jail, has called him a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell down.”

Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, published in 1958, told of his Igbo ethnic group’s fatal brush with British colonizers in the 1800s – the first time the story of European colonialism had been told from an African viewpoint to an international audience. The book was translated into 50 languages and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

Continue reading “R.I.P. Nigerian Novelist Chinua Achebe, Grandfather of African Literature”