Compiled by Elly Turtoe with synopsis by the publishers.
Burma Boy, by Biyi Bandele
At just 14 years old, Ali Banana, a boy as sweetly goofy as his name, decides to leave his village in Nigeria and enlist as a volunteer with the Allied forces. Trained in India, he is sent to fight with the Chindits, a unit operating deep behind Japanese lines in the Burmese jungle. Based on the author’s own father’s wartime memories, this polyglot war story combines a classic coming-of-age tale with a graphic recreation of life in the besieged jungle stronghold of White City – Banana’s ultimate destination.
Beasts of no Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
This debut is unrelenting in its brutality and unremitting in its intensity. Agu, the precocious, gentle son of a village schoolteacher father and a Bible-reading mother, is dragooned into an unnamed West African nation’s mad civil war—a slip of a boy forced, almost overnight, to shoulder a soldier’s bloody burden. The preteen protagonist is molded into a fighting man by his demented guerrilla leader and, after witnessing his father’s savage slaying, by an inchoate need to belong to some kind of family, no matter how depraved. He becomes a killer, gripped by a muddled sense of revenge as he butchers a mother and daughter when his ragtag unit raids a defenseless village; starved for both food and affection, he is sodomized by his commandant and rewarded with extra food scraps and a dry place to sleep.
The subject of the 23-year-old novelist’s story—Iweala is American born of Nigerian descent—is gripping enough. But even more stunning is the extraordinarily original voice with which this tale is told. The impressionistic narration by a boy constantly struggling to understand the incomprehensible is always breathless, often breathtaking and sometimes heartbreaking. Its odd singsong cadence and twisted use of tense take a few pages to get used to, but Iweala’s electrifying prose soon enough propels a harrowing read
*26A* by Diana Evans
The Hunter family lives at 26 Waifer Avenue in Neasden. Twin daughters Georgia and Bessi live in the loft that they call 26A. They have two sisters, a father from Derbyshire who drinks and swears too much, and a homesick Nigerian mother. The novel spans the 80s and 90s as the twins grow into adulthood. During an extended stay in Nigeria, Georgia suffers an assault that she hides from her sister. As the girls grow into different personalities, Georgia becomes more withdrawn with her inner demons while Bessi thrives. The girls share dreams and premonitions, but the growing gulf between them may be too much for their twinness to overcome. Diana Evans’
novel about twins and family growth and interactions has received positive reviews with the New Statesman saying, “At its best, this is a poetic, complex and lingering study of forces that can make life sometimes unliveable, wherever you come from, and wherever you live.”
Buchi Emecheta’s 1994 novel Kehinde
The title character, Kehinde Okolo, is a Nigerian woman who has lived in London for 18 years, most of them with her husband, Albert, and their two children. Though she has grown to appreciate the relative freedom and affluence she enjoys in London, her husband convinces her that the family should return to Nigeria. He goes first, a full two years before she does. When Kehinde finally joins Albert in Lagos, she is stunned by the noise, the dirt and the chaotic hustle and bustle — and ultimately by the subservient position she is expected to take to her husband. But there’s an even more shocking surprise in store for her, one that will change her life forever.*
Oil On Water – Helon Habila
In the oil-rich and environmentally devastated Nigerian Delta, the wife of a British oil executive has been kidnapped. Two journalists-a young upstart, Rufus, and a once-great, now disillusioned veteran, Zaq-are sent to find her. In a story rich with atmosphere and taut with suspense, *Oil on Water*explores the conflict between idealism and cynical disillusionment in a journey full of danger and unintended consequences. As Rufus and Zaq navigate polluted rivers flanked by exploded and dormant oil wells, in search of “the white woman,” they must contend with the brutality of both government soldiers and militants. Assailed by irresolvable versions of the “truth” about the woman’s disappearance, dependent on the kindness of strangers of unknowable loyalties, their journalistic objectivity will prove unsustainable, but other values might yet salvage their human dignity.(less)
On Black Sisters Street: Chika Unigwe
In her U.S. debut, Nigerian immigrant Unigwe sets a melancholy tale in her adopted home of Belgium. When “Sisi” receives an offer from a questionable businessman to work in Belgium she accepts, agreeing to repay expenses as she works. She leaves the depressed, jobless Lagos only to find herself employed as a prostitute on Antwerp’s Zwartezusterstraat (literally “Black Sisters Street”) along with fellow Africans Ama, Joyce, and Efe. Despite her dire circumstance, Sisi falls in love with a native Belgian who encourages her to break free from her madam and the Lagos businessman. Freedom, however, remains elusive for Sisi, whose pitiful life is cut short with the swing of a hammer, prompting her Zwartezusterstraat sisters to share their own stories of fear, abuse, and violence, and allowing Unigwe to give powerful voice to women of the African Diaspora who are forced to use sex to survive. The author’s raw voice, unflinching eye for detail, facility for creating a complex narrative, and affection for her characters make this a must read.
In My Dreams It Was Simpler
Sometimes Life Doesn’t Happen The Way We Dream:
Lola, Funmi, Titi, Dolapo, Temmy and Maureen are a tight group of friends. They have been through many ups and downs together, from their pre-university days to the present time as young career women. They constantly have to deal with the measures of success – striking the perfect balance in all aspects of their lives – careers, relationships, cultural expectations, moral dilemmas and the demands of ‘having it all’. Then there are the men: Tade – a guy from Temmy’s recent past who is now stalking her, Dayo – who Titi is initially reluctant to introduce to her friends, and Wole who appears to tick all the boxes that Lola is looking for but has a shady past she wants to uncover by all means. They are thrown together in a series of intriguing events and twists, their dreams are shattered, and loyalties
are tested to breaking point. Against all odds, the six friends have tried to stay afloat, but they don’t know what the future holds.Will they pull through and become stronger? Or will they become victims of circumstances they cannot control? Find out in this intriguing and exciting new fiction series!
Say You’re One of Them
by Uwem Akpan
Uwem Akpan’s first published short story, “An Ex-mas Feast,” appeared in The New Yorker’s Debut Fiction issue in 2005. The story’s portrait of a family living together in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya, and their attempts to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday, gives a matter-of-fact reality to the most extreme circumstances–and signaled the arrival of a breathtakingly talented writer. “My Parents’ Bedroom” is a Rwandan girl’s account of her family’s struggles to maintain a facade of normality amid unspeakable acts. In “Fattening for Gabon,” a brother and sister cope with their uncle’s attempt to sell them into slavery. “Luxurious Hearses” creates a microcosm of Africa within a busload of refugees and introduces us to a Muslim boy who summons his faith to bear a treacherous ride through Nigeria. “What Language Is That?” reveals the emotional toll of the Christian-Muslim conflict in Ethiopia through the eyes of childhood friends. Every story is a testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing situations our planet can offer.
Call Me by My Rightful Name
by Isidore Okpewho
A young African American (Otis Hampton) falls into periodic spasms and chants a text nobody understands. His troubled family seeks help. The text, recorded by a psychiatrist and deciphered by linguists, is found to be a corrupted family chant from the Yoruba of Nigeria. The doctor advises a trip to that ethnic region. The spiritual voices that have been summoning Otis finally bring him, after some alarming experiences in the journey from America through the Nigerian hinterland, to the very spot where his ancestor was enslaved over a century before. The recorded chant helps to locate the man’s surviving kin nearby. Otis is persuaded to remain in the village for
nearly two years, during which, despite the resurgence of old antagonisms towards his family, he learns the language and culture of the place and joins in completing the rites his ancestor was performing when he was captured by slavers. Armed with a recovered identity and a chastened wisdom in African culture, Otis finally returns to the U.S. to play his part in the civil rights struggle of the time (the 1960s).
Starbook by Ben Okri
Tells the story of a prince and a maiden who are tested by trials in a mythical land where art, initiation and dynamic stillness are supremely important. This book aims to open up the nature of reality, where the essence of life is revealed, and the source of enchantment can be ours – where beauty, regeneration and fulfilment are perhaps possible.
Nine Lives El-Nukoya.2oo7
*Nine Lives* explores the trail of ordinary Nigerian youths and the despair that drives them across the borders… and beyond. It captures the historical culture of the Nigerian people and the new culture as evolved through decades of social hardship, corruption and misrule. *Olupitan Ogunrinu*- bright and handsome but of humble pedigree- battles to assert himself within the social segregation of an elite university community. As he struggles with the moral contradiction, corruption and frivolity around him, he resolves not to be a victim in the predatory race to success, even when the immediate battle to belong seems lost.
A brilliant mind and rugged determination keeps Olupitan s aspirations in focus, until distraction comes in the form of Tolani Badmus, a pretty, intelligent silver spoon who falls in love with him against all the odds. Olupitan was soon to compromise his fiery ambition in a perpetual struggle to sustain his fragile, unnatural romance. The relationship blossoms, or so it seems, until a revelation of deceit leads to heartbreak, near-failure and desperation. As Olupitan wallows in malaise, cultism beckons….the consequences are devastating.
Olupitan finds escape in America; but also squalor, loss of dignity and, eventually, illicit wealth. Wealth came with new ambitions, a quest for vengeance and a new destination, Lagos…Death, however, is an unintended factor in this game, prowling him as he waded through the murky waters of vanity, hatred and self-destruction.