What’s your favourite book about Africa?

Africa, Caine Prize

The ‘Caine Prize for African Writing’ is about to reveal its 17th choice for the coveted award, having begun in 2000 and not missed a year since.

The Prize, which is awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English, was launched to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of writing from the African continent and to bring it to a much wider global audience.

With that in mind, SOAS Blogs thought it would be a good time to ask our community what their favourite books are about Africa. And to get us started, two of our PhD students who specialise in the language and cultures of Africa have supplied us with their top reads:

Louisa Egbunike, alumna, Languages and Cultures of Africa

Homegoingm a novel by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing – a novel that traces the historical rupture between West Africa and its diaspora brought about by the transatlantic slave trade.

“Homegoing is a novel that traces the historical rupture between West Africa and its diaspora brought about by the transatlantic slave trade. It tells the parallel stories of two half-sisters and their descendants across seven generations, tracing the trajectories of their lives as they are set on two very different paths. Opening in eighteenth century Gold Coast in the land of the Asante, one sister is captured and endures the middle passage after which she and her descendants are subjected to the violence of plantation slavery in America. In the midst of their subjugation, we see them battle for their freedom. The other sister is coerced into a marriage with one of the slavers, placing her at the peripheries of her community whilst paradoxically elevating the status of her lineage. The novel grapples with the trauma of black Atlantic histories, introducing a cyclical element by ending the story in modern day Ghana. Yaa Gyasi seeks to interrogate how chance can have a profound impact on the shape of our histories. She provides a frame through which to examine the history of the transatlantic slave trade and brings about the possibilities for reconnections between West Africa’s older and more recent diasporas with the continent itself.”

 Sana Goyal, PhD student, Languages and Cultures of Africa

The Devil That Danced On The Water, CAINE Prize


“Author Aminatta Forna’s The Devil that Danced on the Water, is, as the subtitle says, ‘A Daughter’s Memoir of Her Father, her Family, Her Country, and a Continent’.

“Equal parts political drama and personal history, it is the story of the first ten years of her life, and the last ten years of her father’s life—as she investigates the murder of her father, Dr Mohamed Forna, by the Sierra Leonean government. Marketed as an ‘African memoir’, Forna manoeuvres her dual heritage and diverse homes, Sierra Leone and Scotland, and makes space for her many migrant journeys and memories. Finally, as Dr Kai Easton teaches it on her ‘Travelling Africa: Writing the Cape to Cairo‘ module here at SOAS, it is an extraordinary travelogue that teases out questions of home and exile, identities and belongings, beyond the expected confines of the continent.”


So what’s your favourite book about Africa or the diaspora? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages – #SOASBooks.

SOAS is hosting ‘An evening in conversation with the 2017 Caine Prize shortlisted authors’ on Wednesday 28 June.  Visit our website to register for a free place.


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