Most readers are more familiar with American or English Literature and they would instantly recognise any author when the name is mentioned, sadly the same can’t be said about African literature and in particular female African authors. So if you are stuck for a summer read, why don’t you check our list of eight female authors from Africa that you should definitely explore.
Maaza Mengiste is an Ethiopian author and Fulbright scholar. Her novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was named by the Guardian Newspaper as one of the 10 best contemporary African books. The novel tells the story of a family in Ethiopia during the last days of the monarchy and amidst the civil unrest that follows.
Kopano Matlwa is a South African writer known for her novel Spilt Milk, which focuses on the South Africa’s “Born Free” generation, or those who became adults in the post-Apartheid era. Coconut, her debut novel, addresses issues of race, class, and colonisation in modern Johannesburg. Coconut was awarded the European Union Literary Award in 2006/07 and also won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa in 2010. Spilt Milk made the long list for the 2011 Sunday Times Fiction Prize.
Tsitsi Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. Her debut novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), which was the first to be written in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe, was named by the BBC in 2018 as one of the top 100 books that have shaped the world. In 2020, her novel This Mournable Body was a nominee on the Booker prize longlist.
Okwiri Oduor is a young Kenyan author and winner of the 2014 Caine Prize for African writing for her short story, My Father’s Head. The story sees a narrator coping with her father’s death as he struggles to remember the shape of his head.
Aminata Sow Fall
Aminata Sow Fall is a Senegalese-born author. While her native language is Wolof, her books are written in French. She is considered “the first published woman novelist from francophone Black Africa Sow’s best known novel (and the only one in English translation) is The Beggar’s Strike (1979).
Was born in Kenya to Somali parents. She later emigrated to London. Shire thereafter began writing poetry as a way to connect with her Somali heritage and her roots in Somalia. Her verse first gained notice after her poem “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” went viral. In 2011, she also released Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, a poetry pamphlet published by flipped eye. In April 2013, Shire was presented with Brunel University’s inaugural African Poetry Prize, an award earmarked for poets who have yet to publish a full-length poetry collection. She was chosen from a shortlist of six candidates out of a total 655 entries. In October 2013, Shire was also selected from a shortlist of six young bards as the first Young Poet Laureate for London.
Ama Ata Aidoo
Aidoo is a Ghanaian author whose works include Changes: A Love Story, Our Sister Kill Joy and The Girl Who Can and Other Stories. Her work tends to focus on gender issues in West Africa and colonialism
Much like Aidoo, Emecheta is one of the foremost African female authors and a lauded Nigerian author. Her work largely focuses on gender issues in Igbo society and Nigeria, and racial politics in the UK. Some of her more popular works include her first novel In the Ditch, Second Class Citizen, The Slave Girl, and The Joys of Motherhood.