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Young African Magazine

Books to get you through anything

The novelist Paulo Coelho writes, “In the cycle of nature there is no such thing as victory or defeat; there is only movement.” Even when there is unprecedented unrest, life does not stop. People continue to fall in and out of love, children are conceived, born and raised, and the seasons change. Africa has no shortage of books set in times of crisis and transition. Often there are no overt lessons about good and bad in these stories; only open ended-questions that prompt the reader to look inward. We asked our alumni community to share the books that moved them the most.

Published 3 March 2021

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kabelwamanong 2

Kabelwamanong by Kgotso Pieter David Maphalla

“I credit it for strengthening my deep appreciation of resilience, creativity and African literature. You’d be forgiven for thinking you are watching a thriller movie. The author is to the Sesotho language what William Shakespeare is to English.” – Lehlohonolo Mofokeng (South Africa & WITS, 2015)

ministry of utmost happiness

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

“It’s set against the crisis of Modi’s rising fundamentalism and dangerous nationalism of India. It’s a brilliant book with the novel centering on the life a transgender woman who’s finding her place in the world.” – Suntosh Pillay (South Africa & UKZN, 2008)

little women cover small

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“A classic, set during the American Civil War (1861-1865). It is just such a feminist piece. It highlights the importance of values and the life lessons you learn as a teen that you may need reminding of.” – Lili Marie Flax (South Africa & RU, 2018)

broken earth

The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin

“I recently read and fell in love with this trilogy. It’s a groundbreaking high-fantasy series that shows you how many new ways there are to view and encounter humanity even as the world is literally ending.” – Pamela Eapen (South Africa & RU, 2019)

the wretched of the earth

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

“This book was written in response to the Algerian War (1954-1962). Fanon’s work is insightful not only because of his critique of the dehumanising effects of colonialism, but also because he anticipated that post-independence governments could easily become oppressors, continuing the colonial legacies of poverty and state violence. Decolonisation is an ongoing process, not an event.” – Chris Holdridge (South Africa & UCT, 2009)

soza boy

Sozaboy by Ken Saro-wiwa

“A young man becomes a soldier during the Biafran war in Nigeria (1967-1970). Narrating in pidgin, he starts off filled with pride at becoming a Soza, but rapidly comes to see the absurd brutality of the war. Many terrible things happen, but he lives to tell the tale. Sozaboy is a powerful anti-war novel and a testament to resilience.” – Abigail McDougall (South Africa & SU, 2013)

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