Hey friends. How are you doing? I didn’t realize how much I loved historical fiction till I read a few last year. I fell in love with the genre and wondered why it took me so long. I joined Sara’s IG LIVE earlier in the year where she talked about African history and recommended some great books. It made me remember this list I was curating on African Historical fiction books. So I thought, why not share some of my favourite books rich in African history and culture.
“The more you know your history, the more liberated you are.” – Maya Angelou.
1. She would be king by Wayetu Moore
I read this last year and I still remember how rich the story was. It was so fascinating to learn about Liberia’s history and how the country came about. Wayetu did a fantastic job not making it too cumbersome despite the number of characters.
2. Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
This is a book I’ll always recommend even though it took two tries to fully get into and that’s not because it wasn’t good but it’s a book that requires your full attention. It’s a multigenerational tale that dives deep into Ugandan culture and history. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi will always be a legend for writing this.
3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I will never forget reading this book. I was so stunned by the fact that this was her debut novel. Bruh. It was so good. It spans three hundred years in Ghana and Yaa explores history like you’ve never seen before. I am yet to visit Ghana but when I do, I know where I’ll be going first!
4. The shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
I haven’t read this yet but I’ve read amazing reviews and I’m honestly sold! I mean, female soldiers fighting to save Ethiopia against the Italians? the rich culture and Ethiopian history? Count me in! It was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2020.
5. Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe
I read this earlier in the year and I really enjoyed it. I love that it focused on pre-colonial Nigeria. I have not read a lot of books set in that era so I was definitely pleasantly surprised and also intrigued. If you’ve read The education of a British protected child, you’ll already know Chinua Achebe was always ready to drag the ‘colonizers’ and he was never afraid to share his thoughts on them. This book made me wish we preserved a lot of our history.
6. The old drift by Namwali Serpell
This book is also on my list of books to read. I love learning about other African countries, their history and cultures. We are a lot more similar than we know and I realized this through literature. The Old drift is set in what used to be called Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and follows the lives of three families. It spans between 1904 to 1963, a year before Zambia gained independence.
7. House of stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
I try to read one historical fiction every month. There’s just a chilling and amazing feeling I get after reading them, especially African history. I haven’t read this and it was a book I was hoping to read in April but adulthood is choking me. “House of stone is a sweeping epic tale that spans the fall of Rhodesia through Zimbabwe’s turbulent beginnings, exploring the persistence of the oppressed in a young nation seeking an identity, but built on forgetting.”
8. Dancing the death drill by Fred Khumalo
I randomly came across this on goodreads and read that it’s a story inspired by the sinking of the SS Mendi. ( On the 21st of February, 1917, a large ship sank killing 646 people who were mostly Black South African soldiers). I love a writer who’s able to not just write but state facts and in this book, Fred introduces us to the protagonist who happened to be one of the soldiers that survived the sinking.
9. Weep not, Child by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Set in Kenya, between 1952-1960, around the Mau Mau rebellion. It’s a short story written in less than 200 pages and it explores colonialism in Kenya and it was published over 50 years ago. I remember reading about the author in one of Chinua Achebe’s books as he was also one of the authors featured in the African writers series.
10. Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I have read every book written by this woman and they have all been fantastic. She needs to write more novels. Notes on Grief which featured on Friday Quotes is her most recent book and I definitely recommend it.
These books definitely made me curious about African history and how much we still need to learn about ourselves. If you want to learn about African history through fiction, you can start with these recommendations.
- If you’ve read any African Historical Fiction novel that did not make it to this list, please feel free to share in the comments. 🙂