For this year’s women’s history month celebration, we are telling readers where to begin in their encounter of African women’s writings. In the next few weeks, we will share book lists that capture key moments and themes in African women’s writing. If you’re new to writing by African women or if you are looking to reread some classics, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on our social channels.
To kick things off, we have curated a short list of classic feminist novels that anchored the 20th century. These novels were powerfully inspiring to readers at the time of their publication and have continued to keep readers engaged all through the decades. Consider every book on this list an essential read. They were all published between 1960s – 90s and continue to be influential in the literary landscape even today!
Many of these novels showcase resistance to patriarchal African societies by featuring strong female protagonists such as the widowed Senegalese schoolteacher Ramatoulaye Fall in Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter or the lovestruck Phephelaphi in Yvonne Vera’s Butterfly Burning. Flora Nwapa’s Efuru made history when it first came out in 1966 as the first novel was published by a black African women internationally. Quite a few novels in the list narrate the hardships of travel and immigration for the African woman such as Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen and Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy. Still others describe the role of women within the turbulent histories of African nations such as Assia Djebar’s Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade and Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero.
Read on to find out more about the classic African feminist reads that will inspire and educate you!