Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Contemporary Nigerian writing - reading list I

English friends who share my passion for reading often ask me about what new writing is coming out of Nigeria and I'm glad to say plenty. So here's a list in case you've been wondering what to look out for or buy. I interpret Nigerian quite broadly.....

Everything Good Will Come- Sefi Atta- An evocative rendering of the lives of two Nigerian girls as they grow up in Lagos. Challenges many preconceptions about the role of women in Nigerian society today

Purple Hibiscus- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Kambili (Let me live in Igbo) is a young girl growing up in a wealthy family in Eastern Nigeria but her life is overshadowed by her father's tyranny, his brutality against a backdrop of societal upheaval and the Catholic Church

Graceland- Chris Abani- A Nigerian Elvis impersonator recounts his life, roams from Ajegunle to Bar Beach and interspersed with recipes of traditional Igbo dishes. Edgy

Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila - Captures the brutality and hopelessness of the Abacha military dicatorship in languid, beautiful prose that reads almost like poetry

Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe - Another powerful evocation of military rule in Nigeria and its effects on the lives of ordinary people. Madness looms large as a metaphor and there is a beauty to the writing that is haunting

A Squatter's Tale by Ike Oguine - As far as I know, this is the first rendering of the Nigerian immigrant experience in the US and also captures the frenzied 90s in Lagos when a new breed of buccanneer bankers in braces and red ties wreaked havoc on Nigerian society

Sky High Flames by Unoma Azuah- We follow Ofunne as she grows up from a carefree village childhood through a Catholic mission school to marriage

Beast of No Nation- Uzodinma Iweala - This Harvard educated son of the current Nigerian finance minister writes in the voice of a barely literate African boy soldier and in the process shocks with the rendering of horror in an innocent, almost pure voice.

26a- Diana Evans- Evans, half English, half Nigerian and one half of a set of twins writes of two twins growing up in Neasden, a suburb of London and of love and loss and displacement in an engaging voice

The Icarus Girl- Helen Oyeyemi - I initially dismissed this out of hand as an attempt at a half-Nigerian Harry Potter but in the end quite enjoyed this tale of a half English, half Nigerian young girl and her spirit "friend" overlaid with a sense of horror and the macabre

Other Nigerian writers to look out for- you can read their short stories on the internet- are Chika Unigwe, Ike Okonta, Ikhide Ikheloa, Victor Ehikhamenor, Tolu Ogunlesi, Lola Shoneyin, Maik Nwosu, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu and Chuma Nwokolo

Useful websites are www.africanwriters.com,www.farafina-online.com


Nneka's World said...

I actually read Graceland and i tell you its a very very good read! Funny, compassionate, heartwarming, as in its in your face, totally enjoyed it. I recommend this book to anyone. Definetly looking out for purple hibiscus

EKENYERENGOZI Michael Chima said...

Great collection of some of the best among new writers in Nigeria.

The best is yet to come though.

I know Helon.
I communicate with Sefi on line.
I discussed Abani with one of his old boys in Lagos.

Chimamanda and Sefi must excel.

I don't want them to end up like Papa Achebe whose greatest novels "Things Fall Apart" and "Arrow of God" were written when he was young and he has never written anything better since the 1960s. As far as I am concerned Chinua Achebe is yet to write his greatest novel.

Ben Okri has actually excelled them all. And I am very proud of him. Yet his greatest novel has not been written.

Nnedi Okorafor, PhD said...

Hi, this is Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, one of the writer's you mentioned on your blog. Hi. :-). I've read practically every novel you mentioned here and they're all wonderful.

But I wanted to add something. My novel Zahrah the Windseeker just came out. It's a fantasy novel and yes, a lot of people are describing it as a Nigerian Harry Potter. So I guess you might want to dismiss it (as you mentioned when discussing the Icarus Girl- :-)).

You can learn more about it at: http://www2.uic.edu/~nokora1/Zahrah.htm

It's published by Houghton Mifflin.

Anyway, I just wanted to add my two kobo. Take care.

Anonymous said...


I am teaching Secondary English at Dunoon Grammar School. My 4th Year class have just finished writing critical essays - as part of their SQA curriculum - and were asked to respond to Soyinka's poem, 'Telephone Conversation'.

The boys/girls would like to write to Wole Soyinka about his poem, and to send him a copy of the prose piece that we studied before his poem; Angelica Gibbs' 'The Test'.

Any advice on contacting Mr Soyinka would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks in advance,
Hugh O'Donnell




Anonymous said...


Okri's In Arcadia is EXCELLENT!
UK Naija: you ought to add Bernadine Evaristo's Laura. Bernadine is black British but her father is Nigerian and Laura is set partly in Lagos and tells the story of her family's odyssey. A wonderful read.
Can't quite get into Iweala as I find the language contrived.
And for those who read Dutch, my novel ( the first by a first generation Belgian immigrant) De Feniks has just been published by Meulenhoff of Amsterdam and Manteau of Antwerp.


Anonymous said...

I am reading in London on the 4th of November, together with Brian Chikwava, 2004 Caine Prize winner:


Time: 7 pm

Pilgrimage to Self said...

Hi, thanks for the recommendations. I have just started a love affair (literally) with Nigerian writers and can't seem to get enough of their books. I will really find your list very handy- watch out Amazon here I come!! I too just couldn't get into The Icarus Girl. There's just something about it that I can't place my finger on..... I guess after all the noise that was made about it, I was expecting too much and so it turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax. I am really struggling to finish it.
Everything good will come I found much more down to earth and the characters were very engaging indeed. As for Purple Hibiscus... my all time favorite. I heard she was in Enugu in the last couple of weeks promoting her new novel.... thought you might want to check that out...

Anonymous said...

what is the meaning of blogger i.e to lagosian in nija,you sound quite read and detacted in nature,well we really don't have much time to read in nija u know the normal reasons,well really how is life out there?

Lotus Reads said...

Fabulous list, this is just what I was looking for! Thanks so much for directing me here. I have read "Purple Hibiscus" and "Icarus Girl". I am about halfway through "Half of a Yellow Sun" and next on my list is "Beasts of No Nation". I am so happy to learn of other titles that I can add to my list. Have you heard of Rosemary Esehagu's "Looming Fog"? Rosemary's family is from Nigeria but they live in the US now. A truly wonderful read.

Would you mind if I added you to my blogroll, I am sure I will return here often.

t said...

Nice list, I've only read Chance and Hibiscus on the list. Heard good things about Everything Good Will Come. I sometimes mention my own good/great finds in African literature on meblogs. P.S. Zahrah the Windseeker is the second favourite of my young cousins so far (they read a lot) after The Hidden Star. I like Zahrah.