1. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
In the Joys of Motherhood, Buchi Emecheta takes us into the interior world of a young Igbo woman, Nnu Ego, who navigates coming into her womanhood against a backdrop of patriarchal expectations, a country on the brink of independence, and the uncertainties of life in Lagos. Buchi Emecheta’s protagonist lives out a story that plays out very ironically to the title of the book. In an honest expose of how Nnu Ego’s experience of womanhood and motherhood plays out in a post colonial African context, she offers this reflection:
“... But who made the law that we should not hope in our daughters? We women subscribe to that law more than anyone. Until we change all this, it is still a man’s world, which women will always help to build.” The two baby girls were given the names Obiageli, meaning “She who has come to enjoy wealth”, and Malachi, meaning “You do not know what tomorrow will bring”.
Emecheta, Buchi. The Joys of Motherhood
2. The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah
The Sex Lives of African Women is an empowering, subversive book that celebrates the liberation, individuality, and joy of African women’s multifaceted sexuality. In this ethnographic anthology Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah shares stories from interviews had with over 30 African women based both in the continent and within the diaspora about their diverse sexual experiences. They share in their own words how their intimate experiences have informed the rest of their lives as they journey towards freedom, healing, and agency
A few quotes I loved from this book:
“We achieve freedom when we let go of the weight of societal expectations, and when we find our people- those who love us, care for us, and hold us up when we start slipping”
“We all need healing of some sort, and when it comes to sex there is a whole lot of healing that Black and African women need…One of the ways in which women heal is by speaking out about the sexual harm they have experienced.”
“Sensuality and spirituality are two sides of the same coin and I wanted to be with a partner that I could learn the faith with, from a place of curiosity and not oppression”
3. A Girl Is A Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubugu Makumbi
A Girl is a Body of Water is an inter generational coming of age story that explores the spaces between girlhood and womanhood. Set in a small village in Uganda, the author tells a compelling story of Karabo, a young girl, who is on a quest to find her biological mother after being raised by a community of aunties and grandparents. Her quest leads her to uncover stories about her grandmother and Nsutta, the local witch. The author explores complex themes of patriarchy, capitalism and neocolonialism through the most compelling storytelling and you might find yourself so captivated by the story you almost miss out on the fact that you are being decolonized through the process of reading this book.
A quote I loved from this book:
“Kirabo, have you seen God come down from heaven to make humans behave?’ ‘No.’ ‘That is because some people have appointed themselves his police. And I tell you, child, the police are far worse than God himself. That is why the day you catch your man with another woman, you will go for the woman and not him. My grandmothers called it kweluma. That is when oppressed people turn on each other or on themselves and bite. It is as a form of relief. If you cannot bite your oppressor, you bite yourself.”
4. The Autobiography of Miriam Makeba [My story].
In her memoir, internationally acclaimed singer and anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba tells her life story in her own voice. She tells of the experience of being exiled from her home in South Africa, of her Pan African travels, of her famous lovers all around the world, and of her music.
Her stories of navigating South African apartheid, being partnered with Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) during the height of the civil rights movement in the US, and her travels across the African continent in the years leading up to and following independence give us incredible insight into what the lived experiences of that era meant for Black and African people.
5. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
The Shadow King is a historic novel based on Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia with a focus on the women soldiers who were left out of historical records. With an exploration of what it means to be a woman at war, Ethiopian author Maaza Menigste tells a compelling story of women, who were not just caring for the wounded and burying the dead, but who chose to place themselves as strategic decision makers in ways that turn the tide of war.
A quote I loved from this book:
“You have to know how to stand so they see you but do not see you. You have to look at them as if you are not looking. Be invisible but helpful. Be useful but absent. Be like air, like nothing.”