Africana Book Picks

The Africana world has a robust literary heritage. See which works BYU’s Africana studies faculty suggest you pick up first.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun, 2007

“Adichie’s novel is about the Biafran War, which is in the late ’60s in Nigeria. Part of the country secedes, declares its independence, essentially a civil war there. [The book] tells the story of a variety of characters both before and during conflict. It’s a really moving and interesting novel. It deals with the unpleasantness of war.”—Robert Colson, assistant professor of interdisciplinary humanities


Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, 1958

“Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is always a great one to start with. . . . It was written in the 1950s. It portrayed a moment just before colonialism arrived, so it gives you an interesting sense of that transition of what African life was like in this part of Nigeria prior to the arrival of colonialism and the effects that that had when the colonial forces arrived.”—Peter Leman, assistant professor of English

Africana Book Picks

Joseph Sebarenzi, God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation, 2011

“Joseph Sebarenzi lost all of his family, his parents, all his brothers and sisters, everybody in the genocide in 1994. His message [is] a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. . . . The book by Joseph Sebarenzi is a fantastic book.”—Chantal Thompson, teaching professor of French 


Mozambican Literature

“The study of Mozambican poetry and prose . . . will acquaint you with a rich and diverse span of nearly 100 years of some of the finest literary production in the world. Savoring the works of such universally recognized poets as José Craveirinha and Noémia de Sousa and prose writers Luís Bernardo Honwana and Mia Couto will deepen your appreciation and enjoyment of fine literature.”—Frederick Williams, professor of Portuguese


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Dreams in a Time of War, 2011

“Ngũgĩ’s Dreams in a Time of War is the first of his memoirs. It talks about his years growing up in the early 20th century. He’s a child during WWII, and he’s going to school during the time of the Mau-Mau War, the war of independence in Kenya. It’s really a book about how he’s trying to get an education. . . . Everyone in his family and everyone essentially in his village makes these tremendous sacrifices so that he can continue to pursue his education.”—Robert Colson, assistant professor of interdisciplinary humanities


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Matigari, 1986

“This is a book partly based on a Kenyan folktale of someone who returns. . . . It’s set in the early ’80s in a place that resembles Kenya but isn’t Kenya. A Mau-Mau fighter, who had gone into the forest in the late ’50s, just walks out of the forest in 1980 and is looking for the world he thought he was creating. . . . He finds that the reality of things is different than he had hoped it would be.”—Robert Colson, assistant professor of interdisciplinary humanities


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Wizard of the Crow, 2006

The book looks “at a dictatorship in African country. It’s very satirical. It’s very funny. It’s also attuned to globalization and the effects of globalization on African countries and how the challenges and problems that creates.”—Peter Leman, assistant professor of English


Richard Wright, The Color Curtain, 1995

In 1955, the Bandung Conference brought together people from formerly colonized regions of Africa and Asia. “It’s been taken as a landmark event in postcolonial history. . . . Richard Wright, a famous African American writer, wrote a book about that conference called The Color Curtain. . . . It’s not literary; it’s more documentary travelogue, but it’s still interesting.”—Brian Roberts, assistant professor of English


Toni Morrison, Beloved, 1987; Song of Solomon, 1977

“The fiction of Toni Morrison, especially Beloved and Song of Solomon, deals with the history of slavery and its impact on African American identity.”—George Handley, professor of comparative studies and interdisciplinary humanities


William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!, 1936

“One of the classic American novels is Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner, and that novel touches on Caribbean history a little bit. That’s an absolute classic.”—George Handley, professor of comparative studies and interdisciplinary humanities