07/06/2024

Poetry

Bad Diaspora PoemsMomtaza Mehri

Jonathan Cape

Winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, Momtaza Mehri’s debut poetry collection provides an unfiltered and penetrating examination of the migrant journey and its multi-generational intricacies, all framed within the context of Somalia’s historical narrative. Buy.

The Gathering of Bastards, Romeo Oriogun

University of Nebraska Press

Chronicling the movement of migrants through both internal and external borders, Oriogun’s poems explore vulnerability and sharp intelligence. The poet himself has had to embark on forced journeys that took him across nations in West and North Africa, through Europe, and through American cities as he navigates the challenges of living through terror and loss and wrestles with the meaning of home. Buy.

Mass for Shut-Ins, Mary-Alice Daniel

Yale University Press

In these poems, African and Western mythic systems and modern rituals originate an ill-omened universe. Venturing through dreamscapes, hellscapes, and lurid landscapes, they map speculative fields of spiritual warfare. Buy.

Saltwater Demands a Psalm, Kweku Abimbola

Graywolf Press

In Ghana’s Akan tradition, a child is named according to the day of the week on which they were born. This marks their true birth. In Abimbola’s debut, the intimacy of this practice yields an intricately layered poetics of time and body based in Black possibility, ancestry, and joy. Buy.

Zakwato & Logledou’s Peril, Azo Vauguy, Trans. by Todd Fredson

Action Books

Exhilarating, alert, and animated by both Bété oral poetics and modernist zeal, these two major linked poems by the late Ivorian poet Azo Vauguy, translated into English for the first time by poet and scholar Todd Fredson, evokes the legendary figure of Zakwato, who, having slept through the massacre of his village, marches to the blacksmith to have his eyelids removed so that he might never sleep again. Buy.

there’s more, Uchechukwu Peter Umezurike

University of Alberta Press

Umezurike takes on the rich concepts of home and belonging—home lost and regained, home created with others and with the land, home as “anywhere we find something to love”—giving voice to the experiences of migrant and other marginalized citizens whose lives society tends to overlook. Buy.

Trace Evidence, Charif Shanahan

WW Norton

These poems explore racial margins, the enduring remnants of violent colonial history. Shanahan, an American Moroccan, expresses the universal yearning for genuine intimacy and connection, providing a language that transcends a world often preoccupied with categorization and separation. Buy.

Origins of the Syma Species, Tares Oburumu

University of Nebraska Press

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Oburumu’s collection is a brief history of where he came from: Syma, a neglected oil-producing region of Nigeria. It examines single parenthood, music, religion, and political critique. Buy.

The Animals of My Earth School, Mildred Kiconco Barya

Terrapin Books

In compassionate, playful, fable-like poems, Barya awakens us to the fully alive, non-human communities surrounding us. They demonstrate poetry’s unique ability to prick us from our self-involved numbness and awaken us to wonder. Buy.

Loving the Dying, Len Verwey

University of Nebraska Press

Set against the backdrop of post-Apartheid South Africa, Len Verwey looks at a person’s life from youth and growing up to aging and dying, considering what the ineluctable reality of death might imply about how we should think about our lives. Buy.

Nomenclatures of Invisibility, Mahtem Shifferaw

BOA Editions

The poems in the collection delve into the intricate and multi-faceted aspects of migration, illustrating how the numerous borders we traverse leave lasting impressions. Shifferaw offers insights on embracing the intricacies of a perpetual state of transit. Buy.

Something Evergreen Called Life, Rania Mamoun

Action Books

Forced to leave Sudan by Omar al-Bashir’s regime, Mamoun sat down to reflect during the pandemic. These poems, translated from the Arabic into English by Yasmine Seale, capture the difficulties of being exiled during the pandemic. Buy.

In Gorgeous Display, Ugochukwu Damian Okpara

Fordham University Press

Okpara explores queer male identity, effeminacy, exile, desire, sanctuary, freedom, and estrangement. It is dedicated to the memory of victims of anti-queer violence in Nigeria and beyond. Buy.

Nonfiction

Emmanuel Iduma - I Am Still with You

I Am Still with YouEmmanuel Iduma

Algoquin Books

Iduma explores the silences he encounters within his family and the larger culture as he searches for answers about the fate of his uncle, who never returned from Nigeria’s Biafra War. Read our reviewBuy.

Black Ghosts, Noo Saro-Wiwa

Canongate Books

This book draws attention to the experiences of black people in China. It explores the racism prevalent on both sides. Nigeria’s Saro-Wiwa uses her own experiences and observations to provide a more balanced point of view. Buy.

Small by Small, Ike Anya

Sandstone Press

A gripping memoir about a Nigerian doctor’s experience with the country’s medical system in the 1990s. Buy.

The Race to Be Myself, Caster Semanya

WW Norton

In 2009, the gender controversy surrounding South African athlete Caster Semenya ignited a passionate discussion in the world of sports. Her memoir is a compelling and uplifting tale of strength and rebellion against both a formidable industry and public judgment. Buy.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Insha Allah, Sara Cheikh

Feral House

Sara Cheikh’s memoir details her first visit to see her family at a Western Saharan refugee camp after 20 years and how she is unexpectedly held back due to border closures and the increasing panic around Covid-19. Buy.

Sister Nature, Jess De Boer

Jacaranda Books

Sister Nature follows the adventures of a Kenyan beekeeper-turned-farmer on a decade-long journey to find purpose and potential in the explosive world of regenerative agriculture: from the rainforests of southern Ethiopia to the arid lands of northern Kenya. Buy.

Black Racist Bitch, Thandiwe Ntshinga

Tafelerg

Critical whiteness studies is an offshoot of critical race theory that Thandiwe Ntshinga believes is desperately needed in South Africa. She pokes holes in the belief that leaving whiteness undisturbed for analysis creates justice and normalcy. Instead, she argues perpetually that studying the “other” hinders our development. Buy.

Plays

Grit, Obari Gomba

Hornbill House of Arts

Winner of the NLNG Prize for Literature, Grit explores betrayal, loyalty, grief, and service to one’s country when two half-brothers, both ex-soldiers, join separate political groups to run for the office of chairman.

The Brigadiers of a Mad Tribe, Abuchi Modilim

Ututu Publishers

The Phoenix Black Science Organisation introduces a 100,000-pound prize for African witches and wizards, leading three wizards to vigorously pursue the foreign largesse. A comedic play that delves into power, politics, neo-colonization, and greed. It was longlisted for the NLNG Prize for Literature.

Anthologies

20.35 Africa: Volume VI, guest-edited by Safia Jama and Nick Makoha

20.35 Africa

The sixth volume in 20.35 Africa‘s galvanizing series of poetry anthologies, introduced by managing editor Precious Okpechi, features work by Caleb Femi, Precious Arinze, Vuyelwa Maluleke, Wale Ayinla, Zibusiso Mpofu, Ola Elhassan, and Ernest Ohia, among others. Read online.

Breaking the Silence: Anthology of Liberian Poetry, edited by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

University of Nebraska Press

A collection of poems from the 1800s to the present, showcasing a host of new voices. Buy.

Love Offers No Safety, edited by Jude Dibia and Olumide Makanjuola

Cassava Republic

In these nonfiction pieces, a group of Nigerian writers critique toxic expressions of masculinity and homosexuality in the country. Buy.

Tesserae, edited by Marian Christie and Samantha Rimbudzai

Carnelian Heart Publishing

A collection of contemporary Zimbabwean women’s poetry. Buy.

Wedged between Man and God, edited by Unoma Azuah and Claire Ba

Cookingpot Publishing

Published in the English and French languages, the anthology, co-edited by the Nigerian writer and pioneering LGBTQ advocate, celebrates queer women’s experience in West Africa. Contributors include Olaedo Obinze, Tanamia Illunga, Noni Salma, Delasi Sanenu, Enyo Sela, Gsan Rolifane, Abalawa Solime, and Emmanuella Nduonofit, among others. Buy.

The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction 2022, edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Eugene Bacon, and Milton Davis

Caezik Sf & Fantasy

Winner of the World Fantasy Award, the anthology engages with fiction that introduces rich cultures and vibrant characters from Africa and its diaspora. Buy.

RELATIONS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN AND DIAPORA VOICES, Edited by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Relations: An Anthology of African and Diaspora Voices, edited by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Mahogany Books

This diverse collection spans genres, providing a lively reflection on existence. It encourages connections across both real and imaginary boundaries, celebrating deep and meaningful relationships. Buy.

Children’s Book

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - MAMA’S SLEEPING SCARF

Mama’s Sleeping Scarf, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Knopf

With stunning illustrations from Joelle Avelino, here is a celebration of family, and a touching story about the everyday objects that remind us of the ones we love. It is the first children’s book by the Open Country Mag cover starBuy.

Fiction

Leila Aboulela - RIVER SPIRIT

River Spirit, Leila Aboulela

Saqi Books, Grove Atlantic

Through the voices of seven men and women whose fates are linked, Aboulela’s latest novel illuminates the Madhist Revolution in 1880s Sudan. She was Open Country Mag‘s December 2023 cover starWe published an excerptBuy.

Teju Cole - Tremor

Tremor, Teju Cole

Random House

Tunde, a West African photographer on a New England campus, is our guide into Open Country Mag cover star Cole’s long-awaited second novel. He is a reader, a listener, a traveler, drawn to many different kinds of stories. An illumination of culture and time. Buy.

D.K. Nnuro - WHAT NAPOLEON COULD NOT DO

What Napoleon Could Not Do, DK Nnuro

Riverhead Books

America is seen through the eyes and ambitions of three characters with ties to Ghana in this gripping novel. Their desires and ambitions highlight the promise and the disappointment that life in a new country offers. The book is a summer reading pick by Barack Obama. Read our profile of him. Buy.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim - When We Were Fireflies

When We Were Fireflies, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Masobe Books

When an artist’s memories of his past lives are triggered, he meets a woman with a complicated past of her own, who becomes key to helping him understand what he is experiencing. An exploration of memory, fate, and the threads that bind individuals across time and circumstance. Read our reviewBuy.

Ani Kayode Somtochukwu - AND THEN HE SANG A LULLABY

And Then He Sang a Lullaby, Ani Kayode Somtochukwu

Grove Atlantic

A young man navigates university life, grappling with familial expectations, self-discovery, and the complex emotions surrounding his attraction to another man. It takes on identity, acceptance, and the longing for genuine connection amidst societal pressures. Buy.

Gothataone Moeng - CALL AND RESPONSE

Call and Response, Gothataone Moeng

Viking

These stories are anchored in place — the village of Serowe, where the author is from, and Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana — charting the emotional journeys of women seeking love and opportunity beyond the barriers of custom and circumstance. Buy.

Obinna Udenwe - THE WIDOW WHO DIED WITH FLOWERS IN HER MOUTH

The Widow Who Died with Flowers in Her Mouth, Obinna Udenwe

Masobe Books

A short story collection about characters in strange situations. A beautiful woman is discovered half-naked and dead, but is the killer one of her wealthy suitors? A plumber is treated to an intense sexual experience by a woman with cash, curves, and killer moves — but is she who he thinks she is? Buy.

Milk, The Beloved Country, Sihle Khumalo

Penguin

A thought-provoking story of a South African who asks uncomfortable questions and forces his compatriots to contemplate their national future. Buy.

Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ - DAZZLING

Dazzling, Chikdl Emelmadu

Henry N Abrams

Ozoemena has an itch in the middle of her back. It’s an itch that speaks to her patrilineal destiny, an honor never before bestowed upon a girl, to defend the land and protect its people — by becoming a Leopard. Buy.

Digging Stars, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

WW Norton

Blending drama and satire while examining colonialism, racism, and what it means to be American, Digging Stars probes the emotional universes of love, friendship, family, and nationhood. Buy.

Lucky Girl, Irene Muchemi Ndiritu

Dial Press Trade

Longing for independence, a young sheltered Kenyan woman flees the expectations of her mother for a life in New York City that challenges all her beliefs about race, love, and family. Buy.

The History of a Difficult Child, Mahrez Sibhat

Viking

A tragicomic debut novel about the indomitable child of a scorned, formerly land-owning family who must grow up in the wake of Ethiopia’s socialist revolution. Buy.

Last Seen in Lapaz, Kwei Quartey

Soho Crime

The story follows Ngozi’s abrupt shift from a promising future to a secretive and withdrawn state, focusing on her romantic involvement with Femi. As suspicions arise regarding Femi’s role in Ngozi’s disappearance, tension and intrigue mount. Buy.

We Will Live Again, Chukwuemeka Famous

Griots Lounge

Narrated by a young man, who after the death of his father flees from home because he cannot withstand the harsh treatment from his mother and brother, this is a story of disintegration and hope for rebirth. Buy.

The Stone Breakers, Emmanuel Dongala

Schaffner Press

The fifth novel by Congo’s Dongala, a major figure in Francophone African literature, first appeared in 2010 but has only now arrived in English, with translation by Sara Hanaburgh. It is set in an imagined contemporary African country and told in the second person point-of-view of women working as stone crushers at a gravel pit and demanding higher wages. Buy.

Rogues of the East, Ikenna Okeh

Abibiman Publishing

It’s not everyday that we find African writers fictionalizing struggling writers. Here, a struggling Nigerian writer accepts an offer to help a prospective benefactor locate an estranged son, and is lured into a web of conspiracies and a kidnap-for-ransom deal gone sour. Buy.

Gaslight, Femi Kayode

Mulholland

As Taiwo strives to crack a vast conspiracy, he’s tugged away by the demands of family life and derailed by systemic challenges. Through his eyes, we’re treated to religion’s cult-like grip, how the state is in bed with the church, and the difference between police corruption in Nigeria and America, where Philip has been living for over two decades. Buy.

In the Belly of the Congo, Blaise Ndala

Other Press

The novel explores the history and human cost of colonialism in the Congo. In April 1958, subcommissioner Robert Dumont succumbs to royal pressure during the Brussels World Fair, leading to the unsettling inclusion of a “Congolese village” in the settlements pavilion. Buy.

Daughters of OdumaMoses Ose Utomi

Atheneum

In a vividly imagined fantasy realm akin to West Africa, girls compete in martial arts to support their families. A tale of the strength of women and the significance of a chosen family. Buy.

DreamerTanya Junghans

Blackbird books

Tanya Junghans draws from Zulu mythology to craft this trans-dimensional tale centered on a young woman’s journey to becoming a Dreamer – a hero among a mystical race entrusted with protecting the Milky Way galaxy from destruction. Buy.

Drinking from Graveyard Wells, Yvette Lisa Ndlovu

University of Kentucky Press

Page-turning stories inspired by Shona cosmology, folklore, and indigenous knowledge. The fictional worlds are fantastical and refreshing. Buy.

Edge of HereKelechi Okafor

Trapeze Books

This collection blends speculative fiction and romance, drawing from ancient times to the modern era to present contemporary Black womanhood. Buy.

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