The Twelve Best Books by African Women — 2009

Critical Readings

By Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi and Tuzyline Jita Allan

“In its optimism and affirmative tone, (Twelve Best Books by African Women) echoes and expands on Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi’s Gender in African Women’s Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference and on Ogunyemi’s pioneering criticism. Highly recommended.

Choice

“After (the) inspiring introduction, each title is examined sensitively and in depth. The books chosen range from North to South Africa and were originally written in English or French; all are excellent fictional texts from the 1970s to the 1990s. The analyses are aimed primarily for college-level study, though secondary school teachers can find them useful. All are interesting and extremely insightful.”

MultiCultural Review

“This is an important work for those interested in gender studies and literature, specifically those who wish to learn more about African women’s representation of themselves and their realities.”

African Studies Quarterly

In 2002, at the annual Zimbabwe International Book Fair, twelve literary books by African women were included for the first time in the category of “Africa’s 100 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” This was an important but belated affirmation of women writers on the continent and a first step toward establishing a recognized canon of African women’s literature.

The Twelve Best Books by African Women is a collection of critical essays on eleven works of fiction and one play. The titles by African women that were included in the list of “Africa’s 100 Best Books of the Twentieth Century” are: Anowa, Ama Ata Aidoo (1970); A Question of Power, Bessie Head (1974); Woman at Point Zero, Nawal El Saadawi (1975); The Beggars’ Strike, Aminata Sow Fall (1979); Burger’s Daughter, Nadine Gordimer (1979); The Joys of Motherhood, Buchi Emecheta (1979); So Long a Letter, Mariama Bâ (1980); Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade, Assia Djebar (1983); Nervous Conditions, Tsitsi Dangarembga (1988); Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night, Sindiwe Magona (1991); Butterfly Burning, Yvonne Vera (1998); Riwan ou le chemin de sable, Ken Bugul (1999).

This collection of original essays recognizes the gesture of inclusion as an important shift in consciousness and creates a fresh awareness of the literary works by African women writers. Each essay offers a penetrating analysis of individual texts and opens up a fresh perspective that allows scholars and students alike to explore new dimensions of these writers’ work.


Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi, professor of literature and the founding chair of global studies, is currently faculty emerita, Sarah Lawrence College. Her publications include Juju Fission: Women’s Alternative Fictions from the Sahara, the Kalahari, and the Oases In-between and Africa Wo/Man Palava: The Nigerian Novel by Women.


Tuzyline Jita Allan, originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, teaches in the English Department at Baruch College of the City University of New York.

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Paperback978-0-89680-266-7

304 pages · 5½ x 8½ in.

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