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Nigerians dominate Guardian’s list of 2013 best African fiction

Happiness like Water by Chinelo Okparanta (Granta Books)Chinelo Okparanta’s first work, Runs Girls, was published in the Exit Strategies issue of Granta magazine. Happiness like…

Happiness like Water by Chinelo Okparanta (Granta Books)
Chinelo Okparanta’s first work, Runs Girls, was published in the Exit Strategies issue of Granta magazine. Happiness like Water is her debut collection of short stories, centred on the challenges facing Nigerians at home and abroad. A couple struggling to conceive; two women isolated in different ways seeks comfort with each other; and a young woman struggles with a dilemma to save her mother’s life.
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
Noviolet Bulawayo was the 2011 Caine prize winner for her story Hitting Budapest, which was published in the Boston Review. Her new novel focuses on Darling, one of a ragtag band of children from the short story. Having realised the collective dream and made it to America she learns that paradise is never quite what is promised. We Need New Names was named on the 2013 Man Booker Prize shortlist, making her the first black African woman and the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted for the prize
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi (Viking, Penguin)
Taiye Selasi’s book first came to our attention after her article Bye- Bye Barbar (or What is an Afropolitan?), which defined a new generation of young, culturally astute Africans. Her short story The Sex Lives of African Girls was published in the F Word issue of Granta magazine and is one of their most downloaded. A death at the beginning brings a deeply fragmented family together. Selasi conjures a wonderful tale of loss, leaving and the African immigrant experience in the face of American modernity.
Love is Power or Something Like That by A Igoni Barrett (Farafina Books)
This is Igoni Barrett’s second collection of short stories. He has previously published pieces in Guernica magazine, and his excellent essay I Want to Be a Book: On Becoming A Writer was published on The Millions. Focusing on love in modern Nigeria, the stories are inhabited by a milieu of vivid characters including a corrupt police officer who beats his wife and a young man who seduces men online pretending to be a woman.

Tomorrow I will be Twenty Years Old by Alain Mabankou (Serpent’s Tail)
This is Alain Mabankou’s fifth novel, published in translation from French. Michel is a young boy living with his parents in 1970s Congo dreaming about the destinations of the planes that fly over head. Loosley based on Mabankou’s childhood, this is a darkly funny account of growing up.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Farafina Books)

Set in America and Nigeria, this is a story about childhood sweethearts pulled apart by military dictatorship and eventually reunited. Can they be the same after such different experiences in the west?

Children of Saba by NK Read (Afrikkana Books)
Frustrated by the widespread ignorance of African history, Kenyan born NK Read’s debut novel draws on ancient African legends to recreate the glory and majesty of a prodigious continent. Children of Saba is the untold story of Africa, appealing to lovers of the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings series. It re-imagines the legacy of a vast ancient race responsible for throwing giant shadows upon the dawn of time, and is a chronicle that leaps beyond the boundaries of the present and transcends the parameters of the origins of the Earth. With a trilogy planned, we’re sure it won’t be long before someone snaps up the film rights.
What have we left out? Add your selections in the comments below.

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