ONE LITTLE READING pleasure of mine is the moment I finally know why a book is called what it is called, or the moment I find the title buried in one paragraph, smiling and winking up at me.
We all love titles that work, and African writers do an especially good job coming up with these.
In appreciation of these authors’ spectacular naming abilities, here are six African books titles we love:
Everything Good Will Come is a coming-of-age novel by Sefi Atta about a young girl, Enitan, in post-colonial Nigeria and the ordeals she faces on the road to womanhood. I find this title dazzling because it is everything I want to believe to be true about life (and I don’t think I’m alone). The only way to describe this title is that it is, in itself, a timeless satisfaction. The gentle optimism and the firm assuredness of it draws you to the book, carries you through it, and lingers.
The Thing around Your Neck is a short story collection by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This title builds anticipation: What is the thing around your neck? Do I have a thing around my neck? The short stories in this collection prove that the answer to the second question is this: At some point, we all do.
We Need New Names is a coming-of-age novel by NoViolet Bulawayo. This title prepares you to meet our precocious heroine, Darling. The importance of names and how profound they are is something that you discover as she navigates life, from Zimbabwe to the USA. The seamless incorporation of this theme into the title is nothing short of brilliant.
Not All of Me Is Dust is a poetry collection by South African author, Moira Lovell. This title in itself is poetry. It’s a profound statement that unfurls your imagination and sets the tone for the probing, reflective poems included in the collection.
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth is a poetry collection by Warsan Shire. It explores love, loss, womanhood, and the brutality of transition. The title can mean any number of things and has a vaguely unsettling quality that sets the tone for the profound emotional journey that is this collection.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is Helen Oyeyemi’s collection of short stories. It revolves around locks and keys. This title, a question of property and possession, kicks off this theme in a perfectly poetic way. The individual stories in this collection are also uniquely named, from “Is Your Blood As Red as This?” to “If a Book is Locked, There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don’t You Think.” The universe Oyeyemi creates with her stories is expertly unlocked with this clever title.