We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Great books about Africa, Part 1 of 8 million

First, a technical note: I keep promising, and then not delivering, blog posts with pictures. The truth is that my internet connection is s o o o o s l o w and inconsistent that it’s almost physically painful to deal with uploading and then blogging photos. I have a million pictures just waiting to be blogged. Maybe I’ll get to them eventually.

Meanwhile, my friend K in CO asked me a glorious question: what are my favorite books set in Africa? Given my commitment to the Africa Reading Challenge, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I have two categories in mind: books by Africans and books set in Africa. Of course there’s tremendous overlap, but I will also eventually highlight a few books written by non-Africans but set on the continent.

I should also note that despite my residence in Egypt, my reading has focused on sub-Saharan Africa and especially East Africa, an interest that began before my kids’ adoptions (and really was probably one of the reasons I became interested originally in Ethiopia).

So, here are a few great books set in Africa I read before I began the Africa Reading Challenge (and really these books are on my unofficial life list of best-stuff-I’ve-read):

What Is the What by Dave Eggers. A fictionalized autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a former “Lost Boy” of Sudan, now a college student in the US. This book will knock your socks off (right, K?). (And my copy is autographed by Deng! But that was actually after I read it.)

We Wish You to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch. Did I say the Eggers book would knock your socks off? Well, this one will knock your shirt off. This non-fiction book inspired the Don Cheadle film Hotel Rwanda (also highly recommended), both of which focus on the Rwandan genocide perpetrated against the minority but historically dominant Tutsi tribe by the Hutus. (And, no, I didn’t know the difference between Tutsis and Hutus before I read the book.) Based on the description, it might be hard to understand on how this book can be so good. But it is.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie. Set in Nigeria during the Biafran-Nigerian War (the Nigerian Civil War) of the late 1960s, this novel focuses on the lives of three people, an upper class Igbo/Biafran woman professor; a white British expat who longs to be a true Biafran; and a young Igbo/Biafran man who works as a household servant. The writing is gorgeous and the story engrossing.

And now, a familiar promise: there is more to come.


12 May 2008 - Posted by | africa, books, this blog


  1. First, let me excuse myself…this comment doesn’t have much to do with your topic (which I am following, coincidentally….anytime someone starts recommending books, I start listening). I have been following Racialicious (speaking of which, if you already haven’t, you might like checking out one of their sister sites, Anti-Racist Parent http://www.antiracistparent.com, which has a totally different tone and deals with issues of adoption, transracial adoption, international adoption, etc.) for quite some time and I just wanted to say that I am now living in Alexandria as a student (just two semesters, this spring and next fall), and I always am glad to see your responses, especially since you’ve unfortunately found yourself at the brunt of what seem like some of the meanest comments I’ve ever read on that site. Hopefully the moderators catch on to that soon. It is really starting to make me disappointed with the nature of discussion there.

    Again, apologies for this somewhat unnecessary comment…I just wanted to say hello and send a message of support. 😀

    Comment by jessamy | 14 May 2008

  2. Jessamy, thanks so much for stopping by and for your very kind comments! I do appreciate it!

    And yes, I’ll definitely be blogging more about books soon. Thanks again.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 15 May 2008

  3. Ms Four. I came across your blog from racialicious. I am appalled by the way you seem to be openly attacked for bringing forth your experiences and observations! There is absolutely no reason why your opinions should not be seen as valid, and disregarded.

    Being that you have discussed issues about the racism that your children face in Egypt, I think that I should recommend reading material that will give u you a better understanding of this issue across North Africa and the middle East. Not much is written on Arab racism towards Africans, because many choose to believe it doesn’t exist. I think you should read this article it describes a lot.

    – if that article makes you inquisitive, I suggest you read The Legacy of Arab-Islam In Africa: A Quest for Inter-religious Dialogue, by Johan Alembillah Azumah (he’s from northern Ghana). The book is NOT a novel, it deals with history. The book is fascinating and one of a kind, because it deals with a subject that is never talked about and people choose to deny. It will provide you with context on why your children are treated as they are, and gives you great insight into a part of African History that is NEVER discussed. You will then understand why many people seem to want to silence you and bully you for your opinions.

    My memory escapes me right now, but If I can find other articles and books that I have read, I’ll let you know.

    By the way, great blog,and your boys are beautiful!

    P.S. I chose to use the name anonymous since I’m still trying to figure out what name I want.

    Comment by anonymous | 15 May 2008

  4. Thanks for sharing, Ms. Four! Sorry it took me soooo long to figure out you’d written this. General life craziness, you know? Looking forward to the other 7,999,999 of 8 million posts. 😉

    Comment by Karen | 27 May 2008

  5. […] an earlier post, i recommended What Is the What by Dave Eggers. Of the four Lost Boys narratives I’ve read, […]

    Pingback by Reading Sudan « We Four in Egypt | 12 June 2008

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