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5 of the Best African Female Authors

Mar 19, 2022 10:00AM ● By Anand Subramanian

It should come as no surprise that a continent with such a wide range of ethnic and cultural diversity as Africa would produce literature that is similarly varied and nuanced in its own right. The greatest way to learn more about Africa's rich and diverse culture is to read novels written by African writers that are situated on the continent. Here are five of Africa's most accomplished female authors, who write on a diverse variety of social and cultural topics, from women's rights and feminism to post-war and post-colonial identities.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was born in Nigeria in 1977, is part of a new generation of African authors that are taking the literary world by storm. Adichie's novels are generally character-driven, with the backdrop of her home Nigeria as well as social and political events interwoven throughout the storyline. Purple Hibiscus (2003) is a bildungsroman about Kambili and her family's existence amid a military coup, whereas Americanah (2013) is an illuminating representation of Nigerian immigrant life and racial relations in America and the Western world. Adichie's novels have received widespread acclaim, and she has been nominated for and won various accolades, including the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize.

Figure 1 - Portrait of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Source - Google 


Read more about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - One of Africa’s Greatest Modern Writers

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Mariama Bâ

Mariama Bâ, one of Africa's most famous female writers, is noted for her strong feminist novels that address problems of gender injustice in her home in Senegal and across Africa. Bâ herself faced many of the disadvantages that women face: she struggled to get an education because of her traditional grandparents, and she was left to care for her nine children following her divorce from a renowned politician. Her rage and dissatisfaction with the patriarchal norms that shaped her existence seep into her writing. Her book So Long A Letter (1981) illustrates its protagonist's strength and impotence within marriage and society.

Figure 2 - Portrait of Mariama Bâ. Source - Google

Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna, who was born in Glasgow but raised in Sierra Leone, rose to prominence with her book The Devil That Danced on Water (2003), an incredibly daring account of her family's experiences living in war-torn Sierra Leone, particularly her father's awful end as a political dissident. Forna went on to write numerous highly praised books, including The Memory of Love (2010), which juxtaposes personal experiences of love and grief against the larger framework of the destruction caused by the Sierre Leone civil war and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Figure 3 - Portrait of Aminatta Forna. Source - Google

Read about another female African writer, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi:
An image of the novel Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi Image by Novedades Biblioteca de Humanidades via Flickr httpswwwflickrcomphotos139494057N07

Breaking Generational Curses: Reflecting on Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s ‘Kintu’ for Uganda Independence Day

Happy Independence Day, Uganda! This East African country gained independence on October 9th, 1962. Today we explore the riveting novel ‘Kintu’, by the exceptional Ugandan writer Jennifer... Read More » 


Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer, one of the apartheid era's most prolific authors, explores social, moral, and racial themes in apartheid-era South Africa. Despite receiving a Nobel Prize in Literature for her remarkable abilities in depicting a society riven with racial tensions, Gordimer's most renowned and controversial works were prohibited in South Africa for daring to speak out against the repressive political systems of the time. Her book Burger's Daughter, which depicts the hardships of a group of anti-apartheid activists, was read in secret by Nelson Mandela when he was imprisoned on Robben Island.

Figure 4 - Portrait of Nadine Gordimer. Source - Google

Buchi Emecheta

Buchi Emecheta was a famous Nigerian novelist and one of the best African female writers. Her work mostly focuses on gender problems in the Igbo community and Nigeria, as well as racial politics in the United Kingdom. Her most well-known works include her debut book, In the Ditch, as well as Second Class CitizenThe Slave Girl, and The Joys of MotherhoodA Kind of Marriage, her television drama, was shown by the BBC in 1976. In 2005, she was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Figure 5 - Portrait of Buchi Emecheta. Source - Google.

Read about another African writer, Wole Soyinka:

Legendary Writer Wole Soyinka Releases New Novel on the Eve of Nigeria’s 60th Independence

Happy Independence Day, Nigeria! To celebrate, we are exploring the work of literary giant Wole Soyinka, and giving an inside scoop on his new novel, ‘Chronicles from the Land of the Happ... Read More » 


 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

Read more from Anand Subramanaian: 

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