Saturday, June 06, 2009

books about africa

i was recently asked for an email with my suggestions on books about africa and this is what i came up with so i figured it might be useful to someone so i am also posting it here.

here are some of my favourite books about africa:

The Zanzibar Chest (Aidan Hartley) - memoir about life as a foreign correspondent in Africa and that whole post colonial guilt thing.

Sweetness in the Belly (Camilla Gibb) - fiction about a white woman who grows up in Muslim Ethiopia, amazing read.

Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) - fiction set during the Baifran war in Nigeria, awesome and based on a lot of real events.

My Traitor's Heart (Rian Malan) - memoir of an Afrikaaner who fought against apartheid in South Africa, truly explores the white guilt and the issue of Africanness, I think you'd like it a lot.

In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz (Michela Wrong) - journalist writes about Mobutu and his rule in the DRC, the one I was telling you about. Tough to get through at times, but you'll learn a lot about why the country remains effed to this day.

We Wish to Inform you That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families (Philip Gourevitch) - excellent account of the genocide in Rwanda and the role of the international community in prolonging the killings.

Shake Hands With the Devil (Romeo Dallaire) - the book that the commander of UN peacekeepers in Rwanda during the genocide wrote about his experience and frustrations with the UN system and watching people die, also a bit tough at times, but there is a glossary that always helps!

Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight (Alexandra Fuller) - memoir of a poor, white Zimbabwean family, so interesting and an easy read.

Tick Bite Fever (David Bennun) - funny memoir of growing up white in Africa. Not fantastic, but an easy read.

Swahili For the Broken Hearted (Peter Moore) - I don't love his writing, but he did a trip through Africa riding solely on public transport and wrote about it, so there are some gems in amongst the other bits.

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali (Gil Courtemanche) - fiction (but probably mostly true) about the expats during the genocide in Rwanda. The story will make you cry, but I loved the raw writing of the French Canadian author.

Acts of Faith (Philip Caputo) - an awesome novel about the war in Southern Sudan, the community of pilots, how the UN capitulates war, and the scandals of it all, a really great read and I know from my pilot friends that the story is true and the names were just changed.

Emma's War (Deborah Scroggins) - non fiction, about a British woman who rocks up in Southern Sudan in the middle of a civil war, marries one of the rebel war lords, becomes his second wife, and then actively participates in the war, alienating most people she knows. I also think you'd really like this as it shows the naivity and sincerity of foreign aid workers and those who feel th eneed to 'save' Africa. One of the characters in the book above is based on her, undoubtedly.

You asked for it, and there you have it! I surprised myself with how many books I could pull out of my head and I clearly could start my own post-colonial African literature course...

What can I say - I didn't have a TV for a number of years... nothing like reading a book when you are in bed with a hangover in Nairobi.

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