Yesterday, 11 July 2019, The Guardian released a 10-book reading list for black girls, and guess what? More than a third of the list is occupied by Nigerian writers. The books are Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin, On Black Sister’s Street by Chika Unigwe and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
In announcing the reading list for black girls, Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi wrote:
“Before university, during our years there and in the time since, the books that we have been exposed to have shaped our ideas, our writing – and ultimately how we see the world. Being able to see our realities reflected in the books we read has made us who we are. Some of these books were difficult to read and forced us to confront difficult truths about our place in the world. But we also found joy, and these books gave us permission to dream.
“Reading stories about lives like ours gave us the confidence to tell our own. That’s exactly what we aim to do in Taking Up Space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change, which ends with a list of our favourite reads to inspire black girls everywhere to look beyond a canon that may not include them. Here are some of them.”
Half of a Yellow Sun takes place in Nigeria before and during the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70). HOAYS begins when Ugwu, an Igbo boy from a bush village, is taken by his Aunty to Nsukka to work as a houseboy for Odenigbo, a professor and radical. HOAYS is a memorable novel about moral responsibility, colonialism, tribalism, ethnicity and ethnic allegiances, class and race, and the ways in which love and loyalty can complicate them all.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is the story of the complexity and complications that wives in a polygamous marriage experience. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives was nominated for the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature and the ANA/NDDC Ken Saro-Wiwa Prose Prize. It was earned a spot on the longlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2011.
Children of Blood and Bone is the first book in a planned trilogy. It follows Zélie Adebola’s attempts to restore magic to the kingdom of Orïsha, following the ruling class kosidáns’ brutal suppression of the maji, the class of magic practitioners that Zélie belongs. Children of Blood and Bone received one of the biggest YA publishing deals ever, including the preemptive sale of film rights to Fox 2000. Children of Blood and Bone went on to debut at number one on The New York Times best-seller list for young adult books.
On Black Sister’s Street comes as no surprise. Chika Unigwe outdid herself in this beauty tale of womanhood and made us see sex workers in a different light. But don’t take my word for it. Read the interview we had with her here.