Novels by African writers are popular at #1book140, our Twitter book club. Last July, while many of us were reading graphic novels, a sizable group broke away to read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half a Yellow Sun. By popular demand, we're now voting on novels by writers with connections to Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Vote below to choose what to read this month. Voting closes Monday at noon Eastern
. Soon after, I'll announce the results and post a schedule to The Atlantic
and our Twitter hashtag, #1book140
. As we finish reading February's book, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander
, it's still possible to join the conversation. Tweet questions and comments to #1b140_4
One Day I Will Write About this Place, by Binyavanga Wainaina (@BinyavangaW)
"Which face do you pick to meet chaos? The one built from the ground up, baring all your past, all your scars? Or the adopted one, wired to a certain manner that you have discovered will open doors...?"
This memoir retells Binyavanga's coming-of-age in Kenya and across East Africa, a "story about how Wainaina was almost eaten alive by his addiction to reading
." Alexandra Fuller's New York Times review
raves about its "jazzy style: riffing, inside-jokey, un-self-conscious."
"Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things," reads the intro to this Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel set in Johannesburg. People in Zoo City are "animalled" if they bear serious guilt, their familiarity granting them powers and weighing them down. When Zinzi is offered a job to find a missing celebrity, she hopes it will pay her way out of the slums. Instead, it takes her deeper into the city's underworld.
In the Guardian
review, Gwyneth Jones compares Zoo City
to cyberpunk, "about surface, décor and incident
, grungey eyekicks and jive-talk for the in-crowd." Beukes's latest novel, 2013's The Shining Girls
, features a time-traveling serial killer in Depression-era Chicago.
We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo
In this moving novel about a life displaced, Darling is a 10-year-old girl in Paradise, Zimbabwe. When her community is dismantled by a corrupt government and her family faces tragedy, Darling finds her way to Detroit, where she must reinvent herself as a teenager. Uzodinma Iweala writes in The New York Times
that the novel goes beyond needy stereotypes
to present a Zimbabwe where villagers mock NGO workers, Chinese money grows in influence, and HIV has become mundane.
It's about time we considered reading Teju Cole. A sharp, ethical
, and creative genius
on Twitter. He also writes novels.
In Open City, a half-Nigerian, half-German psychiatry grad student named Julius walks around New York City and meets interesting people. He talks to a Hatian shoe-shiner, watches a performance of Mahler at Carnegie Hall, and visits a detention center in Queens with a church group. During a visit to Brussels, Julius also encounters, admires, and argues with a fiercely opinionated Moroccan who works at an Internet café.
James Wood points out in his New Yorker review
that "we... need a flâneur to see interesting things in the city, and to notice them well." He calls it "a beautifully modulated description of a certain kind of solitary liberalism common to thousands, if not millions, of bookish types."