Shelf anticipations: Literary releases to look forward to in 2021

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Hafsa Zayyan is a writer and dispute resolution lawyer based in London. She won the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers' Prize in 2019. We Are All Birds of Uganda is her debut novel, inspired by the mixed background from which she hails. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and holds a masters' degree from the University of Oxford. (Penguin Random House)
Hafsa Zayyan is a writer and dispute resolution lawyer based in London. She won the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers' Prize in 2019. We Are All Birds of Uganda is her debut novel, inspired by the mixed background from which she hails. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and holds a masters' degree from the University of Oxford. (Penguin Random House)
  • We have been under one or another form of state-imposed lockdown since March 2020. 
  • Here, we have found new ways of escaping while staying inside. 
  • Having had most of last year to settle into the new normal, many have resolved to spend more time reading so here’s a set of African titles to look forward to in 2021. 


Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation

Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Ama
Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation by Feyi Fawehinmi and Fola Fagbule

by Feyi Fawehinmi and Fola Fagbule

Cassava Republic

While the story of Nigeria often begins in1914 when the country became a British colony,its story dates much farther back. For many it begins in 1804 when the jihadists launched their first attack on countries running along the Niger river. In Formation this story of conquests and slavery, betrayals and bravery, rivers and riots unfolds to reveal the foundations that helped build struggles currently faced by Nigerians. 

We Are All Birds of Uganda

We Are All Birds of Uganda By Hafsa Zayyan. (Pengu
We Are All Birds of Uganda By Hafsa Zayyan. (Penguin Random House)

By Hafsa Zayyan

Merky Books

It is the 1960s: a Ugandan entrepreneur by the name Hasan struggles to keep his business afloat. Before he decides to give in, a new regime seizes the country’s power, ultimately threatening his trade. When tragedy strikes, a lawyer named Sameer living in present-day London is summoned back home. There he finds wholeness while learning about his family’s past. 

Time and space travelling between the two continents and centuries, Zayan’s fiction debut explores racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong.

Kololo Hill

Kololo Hill by Neemah Shah (Picador)
Kololo Hill by Neemah Shah (Picador)

By Neemah Shah

Picador

Set in 1972 Uganda, the book begins as the nation issues a devastating decree: all Ugandan Asians are to leave the country within 90 days. For a recently married couple, Asha and Pran, it means having to abandon their family business or face prosecution. With violence escalating as the countdown to the exodus begins in Kampala, people begin to disappear. Left with no choice but to flee the book explores, displacement at home, asylum seeking and what it means to start again.

Walking on Cowrie Shells

Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti (Graywolf)
Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti (Graywolf)

By Nana Nkweti

Graywolf Publishers

Focused on the lives of Americans with multicultural African heritages, Walking on Cowrie Shells addresses the Western world looking to disband monolithic perceptions of Africanness. Pulling from mystery, horror, realism, myth, and graphic novels, Nkweti showcases the complexity and vibrance of characters whose lives span Cameroonian and American cultures.

Dear Senthuran

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi (Faber & Faber)
Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi (Faber & Faber)

By Akwaeke Emezi

Faber & Faber 

In the last three years Emezi has given readers three novels. Here they trace the unfolding of a creative spirit and its journey into the human world. Presented as a memoir, the book tells of their formation of humanness, their path to literary success, tumultuous relationships as well as  existing on multiple planes. The result is a book that is as tender as it is brutal. 

Unbury Our Dead with Song

Unbury Our Dead with Song by Mukoma wa Ngugi (Cass
Unbury Our Dead with Song by Mukoma wa Ngugi (Cassava Republic)

By Mukoma wa Ngugi

Cassava Republic

Four Ethiopian musicians compete to see who can best sing Tizita, popularly known as Ethiopian blues. Taking place in an illegal boxing hall in Nairobi, Kenya, the competition is witnessed by an American trained journalist from Kenya. Writing for a popular local tabloid, the journalist follows the musicians back to Ethiopia once the competition reaches its conclusion. There he learns more about the musicians and Tizita. 

Your Crib, My Qibla

Your Crib, My Qibla by Saddiq Dzukogi
Your Crib, My Qibla by Saddiq Dzukogi

by Saddiq Dzukogi

In the poetry collection Saddiq Dzukogi chronicles the grief of losing a loved one. However while acknowledging the loss, the poetry works to keep the dead alive through a vivid stream of memory. To bring a presence to what is no longer present, the speaker holds onto items—now treasured relics left behind by the deceased. Through them, the speaker embraces the lost in the  places and things they once inhabited. It speaks to grief, mourning, remembering and moving. 

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