9 short stories our Features team think you should read.
An annual ritual you may call it but every year, we put together a list of books we cannot wait to get our hands on. This time, we got together 21 literary connoisseurs, bloggers and editors, and asked for their most anticipated read of 2018 from an African or author with African heritage. From them emerged a potpourri of genres, 10 debuts, 9 forthcoming novels and a consensus: Emezi's Freshwater is coming for all your coins! So, start piling them.
Historian and literary blogger
Black British history is cast aside by academia, and this negation of Black British history allows Britain to carry on its myth of racial harmony and egalitarianism. As an African, I think it is important to educate myself on not only the country and continent I’m from but also on the diaspora. This book is black excellence, and I am really looking forward to educating myself on my British sisters and brothers!
Adeyemi burst into the limelight last year when the news of her million-dollar book deal got out. She is the second African writer to attract that kind of payout. So that’s exciting. But the story itself is intriguing. It is a fantasy narrative which draws some inspiration from Yoruba cosmology and features a powerful female lead character. Children of Blood and Bone could very easily be the next mega hit YA novel…like The Hunger Games, perhaps.
It is a story of upwardly mobile newlyweds whose love is tested when the husband gets jail time for a crime he didn't commit. Having never read Jones before, I am really looking forward to being introduced to her work. After having loved Ayobami Adebayo's Stay With Me and Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers in 2017, I'm super excited to read another nuanced portrayal of how structural injustice trickles down into romantic relationships.
Writer and editor
Akwaeke’s writing is not of this world. To be honest, her style isn’t for everyone. She’s one of those love-them-to-your-bone-marrow or hate-them-with-everything-in-you type of authors. Iweala, on the other hand, had a good first book, so I’m excited to see what he’s done with Speak No Evil. It’s interesting that even with his well known surname in Nigeria, the literary community knows him as his own person.
Michael Donkor’s Hold - to be published in July by 4th Estate - is definitely high on my TBR list. It is a story of unexpected kinship between a housegirl and her masters’ daughter, set in London and Ghana. Hold promises to be a captivating read from a new African voice. Besides, with a cover like that, who wouldn’t be interested?
Book blogger, Kenyan Bibliophile
I’ve always been fascinated by race relations. It seems my thirst for wanting to understand how people can mistreat a certain group based on their skin color is yet to be quenched. Hurston’s book is based on her 1931 interviews with Cudjo Lewis who was brought to the US as a slave in 1860. Barracoon is set to be released in May by HarperCollins, almost half a century after the author’s death.
Postgraduate student and literary enthusiast
My most-anticipated African read of 2018 is Imraan Coovadia's Tales of the Metric System (Umuzi, 2014). Coovadia is one of South Africa's most exciting contemporary writers, and I'm looking forward to reading his latest (though not-so-new) novel, which reflects on the nation that is South Africa through its transition from the atrocities of apartheid to the uncertainties of the present.
I'm a big lover of historical fiction. When I first heard that Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani was due for release in March, I immediately leapt to my laptop and began reading the reviews. The endorsement from Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is very promising; the overflow of praise this novel has received won me over completely. I'm intrigued to see where this story takes me, what I learn of colonial Kenya's 'iron snake', how the narratives are interweaved meanwhile discovering Peter Kimani's work. I'm equally excited and intrigued by Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.
I fell in love with Akwaeke’s words after reading ‘Sometimes, the fire is not fire’. I can’t wait to read her debut book and immerse myself in the story and completely savour it. Freshwater is part fiction, part memoir, and Akwaeke blends the two beautifully. I’m excited to go into new worlds with her and have my reality and worldview completely shaken.
The only book I am eyeing right now is Akwaeke Emezi debut novel "Freshwater." So why am I looking forward to this read? Well, I read her Commonwealth Prize winning short story 'Who is Like God’ which announced her as an important new voice in African writing, and I LOVED IT. With the talent from that wonderful short story, I want to sample more of her prose.
Akua: The novel presents a melange of cultures in its quest to explore answers to the question "where are you from?" As British born Ghanaian, I can relate to the pressure of self-identity when it concerns that provocative and also annoying question. I'm confident this book is going to be amazeballs.
Mel: Picture yourself, a person of African descent, and you wake up one morning with blue eyes and freckles! I've toyed with the concept with friends and family so it's no surprise that I was drawn to reading this book in 2018. I'm looking forward to the comical flare this satirical novel has to offer.
I actually just posted some books (56 of them) that I'm looking forward to this year. But I'd say Hold by Michael Donkor and The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah are the ones I'm very eager to read. Nafkote Tamirat and Akwaeke Emezi's debuts - The Parking Lot Attendant and Freshwater - are also highly recommended!
It's easy to fall for this book, really. A seven-figure deal, a Fox 2000 film option, a gorgeous cover and a six-chapter sampler (released in late 2017) everyone's gushing over. But what interests me most is how this book will tackle matters of identity, community and courage. People are calling it Black Lives Matter meets Fantasy. Who wouldn't want to read that?
So many good books are coming out in 2018, and I am looking forward to reading Wake Me When I’m Gone by Odafe Atogun. He captured me with Taduno’s Song, which I found was almost spiritual for me. I am also chuffed that Buchi Emecheta’s books will be re-published this year. Buchi was a woman who came way before her time and her writing is still relevant today. Head Above Water which is her memoir is definitely the one I am most excited about.
Avid reader and book blogger
This is a book that has been doing the rounds on Instagram (bookstagram). Out of curiosity, as always the case, I looked it up and found that the storyline seems compelling and very interesting. I'd really like to travel back in time with this particular book especially since the Sisonke Msimang has South African roots.
I’m most looking forward to reading Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ’s The Rise of the African Novel: Politics of Language, Identity, and Ownership. According to a tweet the author posted in 2017, The Rise of the African Novel explores “what it means for the current generation of writers and scholars of African literature not to have an imaginative consciousness of their literary past.”
Ghana Must Go – I have watched a lot of Taiye Selasi Interviews and thoroughly enjoyed her brilliance. Ghana Must Go is up next on my list. I have heard contradicting opinions about this book, and I want to see for myself. Some seem to love it and others, not so much. I read that her writing in this book reads like poetry and as a huge fan of poetry, it’s a yes from me.
Researcher, Writer and Editor
After reading her short story, Who Is Like God, I became interested in Emezi's writing and looked forward to reading more of her work. My curiosity about the book increased because of my interest in Psychology. I read in a blurb on her site which says the main character has several selves; making identity of the major themes of the book.
Maybe because it was described as the debut book of the year by Vogue in 2017. Or, perhaps, because I am curious to know how a pretty face like Zinzi Clemmons captures grief — a theme I want to learn more about this year; that is, how does one handle loss or grief? What We Lose reminds me of my most potent 2016 read - When Death Becomes Air - and I just want to relive that moment again.
My anticipated read of 2018 has to be Hold by Michael Donkor. I remember smiling when I first heard about this book. During a conversation with the Editor, I was informally introduced to the three main characters, “wayward” Amma, born to Ghanaian parents in Brixton; “sensible” Belinda, a housegirl sent from Ghana to London, and Mary, left behind in Kumasi. This debut is bound to explore issues of cultural navigation. As a Nigerian-Londoner, Hold already holds a very special place in my heart.
Akwaeke's Who Will Claim You remains one of my favourite creative non-fiction by our generation of African writers. Her forthcoming novel, Freshwater, is thus my most anticipated read. What heightened my anticipation is the 'blasphemy' African Book Addict describes in it. She warned 'Christians' that the book may have them wondering if they aren't sinning by reading it. It is a temptation I intend to fail at resisting.
We would like to hear from you too - what is your most anticipated read in 2018?