There’s nothing quite like reading a book and feeling a sense of kin with its characters despite how relatable or bizarre the story or the character’s situation might seem. For decades now, African authors—female African authors— have continually created and captured this sense of kin in the books they write.
From the streets of Lagos to the dusty sands of the Sahara, several authors have written books that share the uniqueness of the African experience with such immersive storytelling that leaves your skin tingling and your heart throbbing as you experience the joys and sorrows, and all the in-betweens of these characters.
In this article, we have listed six of such striking African authors who keep us on our toes when we pick up a book telling an African story.
1. Damilare Kuku
A novice in the literary scene, this actress, producer, and director’s first —and only— published book, Nearly All The Men In Lagos Are Mad became an instant hit internationally.
As a child, she was drawn to the enduring magic of books, and saw writers as spell casters. Naturally, she was entranced to become one. She is currently best known as an actor in film, television, and on stage.
2. Marguerite Abouet
Marguerite is an Ivorian writer best known for her graphic novel series, Aya.
Born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1971, she grew up during a time of great prosperity in the Ivory Coast. At the age of twelve, she and her older brother went to stay with a great-uncle in Paris, where they further pursued their education. Years later, after becoming a novelist for young adults, Abouet was drawn to telling the story of the world she remembered from her youth.
The result was the graphic novel Aya de Yopougon, published in North America as Aya, illustrated by Clemént Oubrerie, that recalls Abouet’s Ivory Coast childhood in the 1970s, and tells the humorous, engaging stories of her friends and family as they navigate a happy and prosperous time in that country’s history
3. Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie
Adichie has written the novels Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah, the short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck, and the book-length essay We Should All Be Feminists. Her most recent books are Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Zikora and Notes on Grief.
In 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant. She was the recipient of the PEN Pinter Prize in 2018. She was recognized as one of the BBC’s 100 women of 2021.
4. Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
The Kenyan writer was named “Woman of the Year” by Eve Magazine in Kenya in 2004 for her contribution to the country’s literature and arts.
She won the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing for her story, Weight of Whispers, which considers an aristocratic Rwandan refugee in Kenya.
Born in Nairobi, Owuor studied English at Kenyatta University, before taking an MA in TV/Video development at Reading University. She has worked as a screenwriter and from 2003 to 2005 was the Executive Director of the Zanzibar International Film Festival.
5. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
The author of A Girl is A Body Of Water, Kintu, Manchester Happened, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was born and raised in Kampala Uganda.
She did a B.A degree with Education majoring in teaching English and Literature in English at the Islamic University in Uganda.
In September 2001 she joined Manchester Metropolitan University to do an MA in Creative Writing. She completed a PhD in Creative writing at Lancaster University.
6. Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah
This Ghanaian feminist writer and blogger wrote the book, The Sex Lives of African Women and co-founded award-winning blog Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women and has written for The Guardian and Open Democracy.
Sekyiamah is the Director for Communications at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development and a member of the Black Feminism Forum Working Group which organised the historic first Black Feminist Forum in Bahia, Brazil.