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3 Books by African Authors to Have on Your Reading List

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The Curious Case of Dasso by Fouad Laroui
Publisher: Paperback (June 28, 2016)

The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers humorously explores the realism of life in a world where everything is foreign, in a reflecting of unique short stories told by a group of men sitting at a café in Morocco.  The author uses comical absurdity to make an emphasis of the bareness of some situations borne within humanity.  

The stories in the book range from very serious to light-hearted, capturing the dynamics in cross-cultural relationships, the struggle of one’s identity, the relentlessness of xenophobia, and the responsibility to your country’s wellbeing from starvation.  

The latter story of Dassoukine, the grandson of the kaid (tribal chief or governor), draws on humour and absurdity in his trials of travel, sent by the Moroccan government to Belgium on a crucial mission to negotiate and import grain into his country.  Feeling heightened anxiety and obligation to his country, proclaiming to his friends as he recalls the story; “they’ve entrusted this mission to me. The country’s future is at risk,” Dassoukine needless of the stakes, packed only a single pair of good trousers.  

“Get the best price, my boy, the best price! The budget of the state depends on your negotiating skills,” said the prime minister bidding him farewell at the airport – A well ordained fuss only for Dassoukine to lose his trousers on his first night in his hotel room in Belgium.  We follow his comical tale preparing for the crucial negotiation meeting with other diplomats while struggling for a charitable pair of trousers.

It is a refreshing and thought-provoking outlook on cross-cultural and cross-border dynamics and offers a comprehensive assembly of literary styles in a single collection of stories.

The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers received France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Gouncourt de Nouvelles, for best collection.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Publisher: Chatto & Windus (May 2013)

We Need New Names follows a group of children living in Zimbabwe. Darling, Stina, Chipo, Bastard and Godknows lived in shanty towns after their homes were bulldozed down by paramilitary police. Darling manages to escape the harsh realities of the socio-economically derailed Zimbabwe and moves to live with her aunt in Detroit, Michigan, in the hopes of a better-imagined life. Growing up she learns of the sacrifices that need to be made to become one in a strange world.

“We hid our real names, gave false ones when asked… we had paid so much to be in America and we did not want to lose it all”.

We Need New Names is Bulawayo’s debut novel that ventures a cross cultural comparison of life in Africa and the United States of America.

“Because we were not in our country, we could not use our own languages, and so when we spoke our voices came bruised, when we talked, our tongues thrashed madly in our mouths, staggered like drunken men”.

The book reviews a number of socio-economic ills among the African people, in and out of their continent.  It refers to the difficulties of immigration and the important consequence of deportation and its surrounding fear.

We Need New Names received the Hemmingway Foundation/PEN Award for debut work of fiction.  The book also received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction in 2013.

Little Suns by Zakes Mda
Publisher: Umuzi (2015)

Little Suns tells the profound love story of Malangana, directly translated as ‘Little Suns,’ in his search for his beloved Mthwakazi.  Malangana and Mthwakazi were torn apart by the events resulting to the assassination of Hamilton Hope, which sent Malangana away in an attempt to escape Hope’s objectives to turn the local kingdoms of the Eastern Cape; the king and his people known as amaMpondomise, to fall under the control of the British and join in his battle.  

The book ventures into the true events surrounding the death of Hamilton Hope while encompassing the cultural inflictions of the people of the Eastern Cape under colonial pressures, bridged with the touching story of love and perseverance of Malangana and Mthwakazi that can overcome exile and discord.

The book has received much acclaim, with the Guardian stating, “Zakes Mda is among the most acclaimed exponents of a new artistic freedom.  His fiction has a beguiling lyricism and humour, revelling in the beauty of aloe-covered mountains or Cape marine life.”

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