I beam with pride at the sight of books by Nigerian authors on my bookshelf—displaying names rich with culture that even my tongue has difficulty navigating. As a first generation Nigerian American, I’m unfamiliar with the many peculiarities and treasures my homeland has to offer. Luckily, the deluge of Nigerian literature in recent years has not only given me the chance to learn more about my own culture, but in many ways, it has affirmed my experiences as a child of West African immigrants. As Nigerian Independence Day approaches on October 1st—and we await the grandiose display of “Naija Pride” during the NYC parade—here are five novels we’ll be reading to celebrate.
The Nigerian Civil War of the late 1960s is brought to life through the voices of five unforgettable characters. Among them is Ugwu, a houseboy who comes to his master a naive child and ends the novel a wary ex-soldier. As war drags on and the differences between Ugwu and the once-privileged family he serves shrink, their shared, raw humanity is all that remains.
After reading Chigozie Obioma’s Cain and Abel–esque novel THE FISHERMEN, I couldn’t talk or think about anything else. The hefty reality of the socioeconomic state of 1990s Nigeria and the mystical and folklorish air of the dangerous prophecy that spins one’s family’s lives out of control makes this read altogether nostalgic, heartrending, and moving.
When their strict father has to travel for work, four brothers skip school and go fishing. At the ominous nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. THE FISHERMEN is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria.