In honor of International Women’s Day we share our list of favourite female authors and which of their works we love the most. We’ve included authors both living and deceased, spanning myriad styles and continents.
How Shall We Kill The Bishop, Lily Mabura: This features stories of: ‘An artist mourning for a brother who died in Bosnia, a restless young woman alerted to the possibility of life outside her tight knit community, an unemployed lawyer lingering in a Kenyan hospital.’
Set in Kenya, the USA, Namibia and the Congo, these brief, evocative tales demonstrate an acute sensitivity to the globalised trajectories which increasingly distinguished our world. Lily Mabura’s anthology was shortlisted for the 11th Caine Prize for African Writing in 2010. [Buy Online]
Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing, Yvonne Vera (ed.): As Yvonne Vera aptly describes in the preface, ‘A woman writer must have an imagination that is plain stubborn, that can invent new gods and banish ineffectual ones.’
African women are seldom given the space to express their concerns, their ideas and their reflections about the societies in which they live. In a situation where a good woman is expected to remain silent, literature can provide an important medium for the expression of heartfelt and sometimes deeply shocking views. [Buy Online]
The Lovers, Bessie Head: In the opening pages of the she writes, ‘I write because I have the authority from life to do so. Life asked me to be a writer of a certain kind.’ And what kind of writer is this? A writer with prose so potent, the words seem to lift themselves off the type script; Prose so potent it pulls the reader into an active participation in the creation of this imaginative participation of the story bound experience. The Lovers collects together the short fiction of Bessie Head primarily set in the 60s and 70s, written mainly in Serowe Botswana and depicting the lives and loves of African people pre-and-post independence. [Buy Online]
Black Mamba Boy, Nadifa Mohammed: Black Mamba Boy, tells the story of Jama, a young Somali boy trying to find his way in the world. At the beginning of the story, the boy’s mother succumbs unexpectedly in the Yemeni port city of Aden, in 1935. Already abandoned by the man he calls his father, the book takes us through the inaccessible boy/man loneliness that Jama goes through, trying to find his place in the world. Much of the novel documents Jama’s efforts at reuniting with this man he barely knows as a father. [Buy Online]
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Widely known for her début, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert is back with what is slated to be another best-seller, Big Magic. The book is a guide to help the reader unlock the creativity that is inherently incurring in all of us. She takes us through the consequences that come with ignoring the creative voice inside of us. This book will inspire you to rediscover parts of yourself that you didn’t even know existed.[Buy Online]
UNBOWED: One Woman’s Story, Wangari Maathai: Often referred to as a ‘problematic’ woman, UNBOWED: One Woman’s Story, allows us a glimpse into the complex nature of the late Prof. Wangari Maathai.
In UNBOWED, bask in the charisma of a hugely humble woman whose unique story of singular survival carries, in the midst of it, an inspiring message of hope. Hers is an extraordinary story, straddling dissimilar worlds and evolving times, and revealing what the courage, tenacity and humor of one woman can achieve; how ‘a small a thing as planting a seedling and watering it can make all the difference in the world’. [Buy Online]
Ruby, Cynthia Bond: Ruby Bell is “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe centre of the city-the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village-all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.[Buy Online]
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus -three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman.[Buy Online]
We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo
We Need New Names follows ten-year-old Darling from Zimbabwe under Mugabe’s repressive regime to her aunt’s house in Detroit, where she comes to live when her prospects at home-in Zimbabwe grow slim. Bulawayo’s language reveals the contrast between landscapes, as well as Darling’s sense of displacement and search for her own identity across continents. If you’ve ever felt an overwhelming loss in your sense of self, this book might help lead you back home. [Buy Online]
DUST, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor : Dust is a fine, compassionate novel that relishes the complexity of human relations. It is written in a language that is often beautifully observant, and is alert in its insight and sympathy. A recent winner of the Text Book Centre/ Jomo Kenyatta Proze For Literature(JKPLA). [Buy Online]
Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi: Her debut novel, Ghana Must Go is an immigrant story that follows a disjointed family from the shores of Nigeria, to America and Ghana, inevitably. The profound nature of death, and the lies and secrets that it consequently leaves in its wake is what gives this book its plot. Critics of the novel often accuse Ms. Selasi of being verbose in her descriptions; maybe you can read it and lend us your opinion on it? [Buy Online]
How To Be Both, Ali Smith:Without giving too much away, the spirit and the girl somehow cross paths and it is from this meeting that the different print versions begin to make sense. Somewhere in the book, George recalls a conversation with her mother where her mum said, “You know, Georgie, nothing’s not connected,” need we say more?
We can only hope that whichever version you get (Be it George first and Spirit after, or vice versa), that the book will change you and make your life all the richer for having have read it. [Buy Online]