This year is looking good for African writing. We should expect new discoveries and fresh voices to emerge from the continent as there are still stories yet to be told whilst those who have already proven themselves will likely wax stronger. This is who we expect to rock:
Noviolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)
We Need New Names is the lovely title of the forthcoming debut novel by Noviolet Bulawayo (pen name of Elizabeth Tshele). Noviolet won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2011 for her story Hitting Budapest.
According to Libyan author Hisham Matar, who was one of the Caine Prize Judges: “The language of Hitting Budapest crackles. Here we encounter Darling, Bastard, Chipo, Godknows, Stina and Sbho, a gang reminiscent of Clockwork Orange. But these are children, poor and violated and hungry. This is a story with moral power and weight, it has the artistry to refrain from moral commentary. NoViolet Bulawayo is a writer who takes delight in language. Noviolet’s works are intensely lyrical and moving, while engaging with real social issues. She is a 2012-2014 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. We Need New Names comes out in May.
Teju Cole (Nigeria)
Writer, art historian, street photographer, Teju Cole (his real name is Obayemi Babajide Adetokunbo Onafuwa) was born in the United States to Nigerian parents, raised in Nigeria, and moved back to the US at the age of 17. His first book, a novella, Everyday is for the Thief, was published in Nigeria in 2007 by Cassava Republic. Cole has earned flattering comparisons to literary heavyweights like JM Coetzee, WG Sebald and Henry James for his second book, Open City (Faber 2011), a novel described as “finely written” and “free-flowing form with no plot, narrated by a scholarly solitary walker”.
Teju Cole is also well known for the compact stories he crafts on his Twitter account called Small Fates. These Tweet-sized narratives are based on odd stories drawn from small news items in newspapers. Last year Cole was included in the panel of judges for the inaugural twitter fiction festival “a virtual storytelling celebration” featuring “creative experiments in storytelling from authors around the world”. I have a hunch that he will spring up surprises in 2013 and delve into greater adventures in the world of arts.
Lauren Beukes (South Africa)
Shining Girls is a novel much raved about from Lauren Beukes, one of the finest genre writers in the continent. Her first novel was Moxyland but her major break came with Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. Zoo City won the 2011 Arthur C Clarke award, the 2010 Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel and was short-listed for several other prizes and the film rights have been sold.
In 2011, HarperCollins brokered a six-figure sum deal at the Frankfurt Book fair for Shining Girls and plans to publish it in May this year. In Shining Girls, The Time Traveler’s Wife meets The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in this story of a time-traveling serial killer who is impossible to trace, until one of his victims survives.
Taiye Selasi (Ghana)
Selasi met Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison at Oxford in 2005. She was introduced by Morrison’s niece, the producer of a play she had written as a graduate student. Morrison invited Selasi to her home when they returned to the States. Morrison subsequently encouraged Selasie to pen her first story The Sex Lives of African Girls which was published in Granta magazine in 2011 in its feminism issue and appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012.
In 2010 Ann Godoff at Penguin Press bought Selasi’s unfinished novel and Ghana Must Go is now set to be published in 15 countries in 2013. The novel opens with a scene of a father who is about to die and traces the saga of his disintegrating family back to Africa. Ghana Must Go is widely tipped as one of the most eagerly anticipated books of the year.
Victor Ehikhamenor (Nigeria)
Excuse me, Ehikhamenor’s newly released collection of essays, is a book of wit and humour. What began as a weekly column of the same title, while he served as Nigeria’s NEXT Newspaper’s first creative director, evolved into a book of satirical proportions. These funny pieces draw heavily on the experiences of everyday life in Nigeria as well as from the lives of Nigerians abroad.
Victor graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland, USA and has won awards for his works including the 2008 Leon Forest Scholar Fiction Award and a Breadloaf Scholarship.
Alain Mabanckou (Congo)
Franco-Congolese novelist Alain Mabanckou is among the best known and most successful writers in the French language and one of the best known African writers in France. Sometimes referred to as Africa’s Samuel Beckett, Mabanckou was selected by Vanity Fair as one of the continent’s greatest living writers.
His works include Black Bazaar, Memoirs of a Porcupine, African Psycho and Broken Glass and his style has been described as colloquial and highly entertaining. He is also prolific, Mabanckou’s latest offering Tomorrow I Will be Twenty Years Old is set to be published in May this year. Drawn from his own childhood experiences the book recounts the story of ten year old Michel living in Pointe Noire, Congo in the 1970s.
Sarah Lotz (South Africa)
Lotz is an award-winning author and scriptwriter who has published three novels Tooth and Nailed, Exhibit A and Pompidou Posse. Sarah writes urban horror novels under the name SL Grey with author Louis Greenberg and a Young Adult zombie series with her daughter, Savannah, under the name Lily Herne. Lotz recently accepted a pre-emptive six-figure offer from UK publishers Hodder and Stoughton for her novel The Three and another book.
Igoni Barrett (Nigeria)
Igoni Barrett, one of the finest writers around, was the winner of the BBC World Service short story competition for 2005. His first book, a collection of short stories entitled From Caves of Rotten Teeth, was first published in 2005 and re-issued in 2008. Known for the raw energy of his prose and characters that feel alive on the page, Barrett’s new collection of stories Love Is Power, Or Something Like That is due to be published in the UK, US and Nigeria in June. I encourage you to put it on your list of must-reads for 2013.
Mehul Gohil (Kenya)
Mehul Gohil is a writer born and living in Nairobi, Kenya. He won the Kenya I Live In short story competition organised in 2010 by Kwani Trust for his short story Farah Aideed Goes To Gulf War. He has previously been published in Kwani 06. Those hungry for his first book hopefully won’t have to wait long.
Rachel Zadok (South Africa)
In 2005 Rachel was nominated for the Whitbread First Novel Award for her novel Gem Squash Tokoloshe, which was also a finalist in the UK TV presenters’ Richard and Judy How to Get Published competition. The book is a story of the dissolution of a marriage seen through the eyes of an innocent child in rural South Africa. Gem Squash Tokoloshe was widely seen as marking the arrival of a young writer to be reckoned with.
This year Rachel’s second book Sister Sister (Kwela Books) is being released in South Africa in April. It is the story of the gregarious bright Thuli and her stuttering, introverted twin Sindi. In childhood they are inseparable outcasts but the arrival of an uncle they never knew they had sets into motion a course of events that will destroy their relationship and, eventually, their lives. You might want to read this one with the lights on if I know anything about Rachel’s ability to write stories that crawl along your spine.
Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria)
Cover of Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
Okorafor is the author of Who Fears Death, The Shadow Speaker and Zahrah the Windseeker and has won many awards for her works. Her collection of short stories KabuKabu, will officially be released October 2013.
Beatrice Lamwaka (Uganda)
Short-listed for the Caine prize in 2011 for her story Butterfly Dreams, Lamwaka is the General Secretary of the Uganda Women Writers Association. She was a finalist for the 2009 SA PEN/Studzinski Literary Award and was a fellow of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation/African Institute of South Africa Young Scholars programme that year. Lamwaka is currently working on her first novel and a compilation of her short stories.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Celebrated novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie returns with a new novel Americanah. The title comes from the word Nigerians use for those who have left the country for the US and become “Americanised” – a borderline insult. With three books to her name and a clutch of literary prizes, Chimamanda is one of the most beloved and critically lauded writers working today. Americanah comes out in May.