Six books by African women you should read in your lifetime

Reading is a wonderful way of learning about the human nature. African literature not only exposes you to the different life experiences of characters in different parts of the continent. From young to old, from rich to poor, these characters have been featured in quite a lot of books written by African women.

Today we bring you six books by African women you should read in your lifetime.

The River and the Source, Margaret Ogola

Many people in Kenya must have encountered this book in high school. It tells the story of Akoko, and her coming of age. However it does not stop there, it follows the generation after Akoko highlighting the women from Chief Odero Gogni’s line.

It is a refreshing and timeless book that explores the position of women in the society using the specific lenses of the women featured in it.


So Long a Letter- Mariama Ba

This semi-autobiographical novel by Mariama Ba is a recount of the life of  Ramatoulaye Fall in the form of a long letter.  Ramatoulaye is widowed: her husband Modou died suddenly from a heart attack. Not only does it deal with the emotions Ramatoulaye felt after the death of her husband but also highlights her fears and concerns of a life without him.  It is a story of loss and recovery and of finding oneself.


The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta

In this novel published in 1975, Buchi tells the story of  Aku-nna is a subject of the bride price. Her stepfather wants a huge price from her suitors and the suitors compete against each other to offer the biggest one. Aku-nna herself wants none of these suitors because she fancies herself in love with the village teacher, Chike.

The story highlights various issues from what it meant for a girl to come of age; the clash between tradition and modernity with a mix of slavery in it; the perceived value of virginity in the society then.  It also highlights the treatment of women in the region.


Maru, Bessie Head

This is a novella by Bessie Head, one of Africa’s greatest female writers. Maru is one of the chiefs in Dilepe and soon to be the village’s paramount chief. He meets Margaret, a woman of San heritage, who is considered an outcast in his village, and the story takes a different turn.

The book is a story that explores love against a backdrop of patriarchy, sexism, racism, and friendships, complete with conflict and subdued violence.


Woman at Point Zero, Nawal el Saadawi 

How do you live as a sex worker in a society that hates women to the point of murder? This is the basis of this novel, based on real life. Saadawi met Firdaus, a woman who was in prison for murder. She is unlike any other prisoner: she rarely eats or sleeps, she never talks, she never accepts visitors. However, she agrees to have her life story told days before her execution.

The story tells us of her life: she has been passed from one ‘male guardian’ to another due to her poor background and her gender. She explores the contradictory nature of humans but insists on her freedom, even if it means death.


Nervous Conditions, Tsitsi Dangarembga

A young woman in Zimbabwe gets a chance at education after the death of her brother. She becomes one of the best students in school and has to face the subtle microaggressions of being a woman in a sexist society. The story dramatises life during independent Zimbabawe and the concerns, nervousness and hopes of a new era.  The concept of identity at a moment where everything is changing also comes through in this novel.

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