We find that books are a great way to process social and political events that seem very confusing and even disheartening. Books expand our knowledge and help us take informed and ethical position on issues. This week’s list responds to the recent anti-gay law passed in Uganda. We’ve put together 9 books by African writers that bring light to the struggle for LGBTQ freedom.
On March 21, Uganda passed the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which criminalizes same-sex relationships in one of the world’s harshest anti-gay laws. According to this bill, people identifying as LGBTQ+ or promoting homosexuality in any way could be put in prison for up to 20 years. Further, any social behavior that falls under the category of “aggravated homosexuality” will result in a death sentence.
We have been thinking about what these anti-gay laws mean for Ugandan writers sharing queer experiences through literature or memoirs. In a Twitter conversation we had with Kenyan poet and activist Shailja Patel, Patel explains that the law will certainly stifle creative work centered on LGBTQ experiences:
The bill outlaws the “promotion of homosexuality,” and imposes criminal sanction on anyone who “advertises, publishes, prints, broadcasts, distributes” material, including digitally, that can be regarded as “promoting or encouraging homosexuality.” This is a blanket ban on LGBTQ characters or stories in Ugandan literature and culture…If queerness, queer people and queer expression can no longer exist in Ugandan literature, TV, films, music, art, theatre, dance, and media, then Ugandan culture is immeasurably impoverished.
We hope that this harsh and unfortunate law gets rolled back. In the meantime, here are 10 African books to read that powerfully celebrate the diversity and spirit of queer life and culture in Africa.