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1. You read Things Fall Apart. Then you skipped the next four decades. Now you can’t stop talking about Adichie.

2. You think Soyinka is the only African Nobel Laureate. This is either because you are plain and simply ignorant or maybe you do know of Gordimer and Coetzee and Mafouz but haven’t yet figured out that there is such a thing as a white African or that Egyptians are Africans. Yeah…either way, you’re ignorant. 

3. You can’t name two African science fiction writers. I take that back. You can’t name one African science fiction writer.

4. You keep saying Achebe is the father of African LITERATURE. Word of warning: careful where you say something like that. You could get slapped.

5. You are a believer in the ultimate African literary conspiracy—Achebe hijacked the African Writers Series and tried to make clones of himself by forcing African writers to write like himself.

6. Adichie and Teju Cole are the only contemporary African authors alive, as far as you’re concerned. They are perfectly perfect and can do no wrong. Everything they utter is pure divine truth. If you were God, you’d make them fall in love and get married and give birth to little Ifemelus and Juliuses…Thank God you’re not God!

7. Every African novel is a window into the soul of Africa. So you insist that your cousin going off to Peace Corp in Zambia should read Things Fall Apart or Wizard of the Crow because in your mind all African novels are pretty much anthropological tracts.

8. You’ve never read any work by Amos Tutuola but pretend you have anytime his name comes up in conversation.

9. You’ve not read a novel written by an author from, at least, one of these five countries: Equatorial Guinea, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Mozambique.

10. If you’ve included anywhere in your book review of an African novel: “Such and such novel is a powerful and evocative examination of [insert social issue here].”

 

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

7 Responses to “10 Signs You Don’t Really Know African Novels” Subscribe

  1. yemi adebiyi 2014/04/18 at 16:15 #

    It is because Things fall apart and Half of a Yellow Sun enjoyed orchestrated foreign media hype because of their favourable disposition to British ideals and ego. The crime other african novels like Arrow of God committed was exposing the demerits of colonialism and the books and thus were not popular reads

  2. ifeoluwa 2014/04/19 at 02:22 #

    Number 3 got to me. I can only name one published African science fiction writer (Nnedi Okorafor) and I’ve not even read her book *facepalm*

    “…Little Ifemelus and Juliuses…” cracked me up.

    Great piece – as always.

  3. Mbulela 2014/04/19 at 12:36 #

    Amos Tutuola’s books are nothing to be proud of. Enough of that sentimental crap.
    I am guilty of No.9 and I hope to remedy it before the end of the year.
    Any good suggestion or two?

  4. David Stryker 2014/04/19 at 15:16 #

    Hey, fun article!
    My regret is that my favorite African authors (full disclosure, I read most of them many years ago) – Armah, Maddy, Vieira, Mamadou Soukouna, Camara Laye, Saro-Wiwa, to name those who affected me the most – are just plain under the radar in America. Ok, Soukouna only wrote one book (in French) and the others’ are either dead or silent, but how is anyone – beyond academics – supposed to know about contemporary African writers who have difficulty finding an audience even in Africa? Does anyone even know Maddy died just a month ago, or that Awonoor was tragically killed in the Westgate attack last year?
    Thanks for this blog, it’s great!
    David Stryker

  5. Manny 2014/04/19 at 22:58 #

    This is a bit judgmental, I think. I have read pretty much all the books in the African Writers Series. I have read authors unknown to some such as Maryse Conde (she’s not technically African but hey) and Khona Khasu. I like Adichie’s recent books but I think Purple Hibiscus is over-rated. However, I haven’t been able to get beyond page 10 of any Teju Cole book. I sure can’t name one African science fiction writer. I might have read an African science fiction book but I must have forgotten to register the genre in my brain. It definitely wasn’t essential for MY doctoral dissertation. There is a conspiracy theory re the African Writers Series? I will be sure to check the conspiracy theories database the next time I pick up a book for my reading PLEASURE.
    Point is, we can’t know it all. It’s your dissertation and you have to know a lot more than others.
    PS: I enjoyed the Palm Wine Drinkard

  6. su'eddie 2014/04/22 at 10:53 #

    Hee hee hee! Tell me about it! This is where someone would shout: You’re a learner! Good one. Sounds like something I would do an addendum or so to.
    Truly there’s a problem with our distribution and there’s so much work we have to do to that. May the heavens help us.
    Good one!

  7. Tardoo Ayua 2014/04/25 at 04:45 #

    Well this was really damn condescending. Sure we may be ignorant about a lot of African literature facts but that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk when letting us in on them. I disagree with no. 10 too, you didn’t even mention why that shows a lack of knowledge of African novels. Also some of your “signs” are really subjective like 3 and 4 and it really takes away from the write-up.

    Oh and Su’eddie the moment I saw hee! Hee! Hee! I knew it was U. U shud trademark that laughter! Lol!

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