Around the World With Magical Realism: Africa

And we’re back with another Magical Realism May Monday! This week, we are heading to Africa with some of my favorite stories. Magical Realism from Africa draws heavily from folklore, history, and mythology and often features spirits, demons, and animals-as-guides. If you love good storytelling and a balance of realism and mysticism, African magical realism might be your new favorite genre!

The Famished Road by Ben Okri: A compelling, disturbing novel of a child existing between life and death. Okri weaves fantasy with harsh reality in heartbreaking prose that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi: Drawing on Nigerian Mythology, Oyeyemi crafts a creepy, mesmerizing, and lyrical novel of a young girl haunted by family secrets.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi: Narrated by a chorus of evil spirits controlling the mind and body of Ada, our protagonist, Freshwater is an unsettling and lyrical novel that is entirely unique.

Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: A sprawling and deeply satirical story of corruption in Africa.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: A sweeping saga following the trajectory of Ghana over 300 years through the lens of seven generations of a single bloodline. Homegoing is a haunting, fresh, and enlightening novel.

Search Sweet Country by B. Kojo Laing: A dense but deeply original and thoughtful novel about the shifting culture of modern Ghana.

A Dry White Season by André P. Brink: A Dry White Season is an unflinching and powerful story of a white schoolteacher forced to confront the truth of racial intolerance and political injustice in apartheid South Africa.

Cion by Zakes Mda: Insightful, bittersweet, and moving, Cion follows professional mourner, Toloki, as he moves to America and connects with a family through the quilts of their ancestors.

The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell: Three generations of a cursed family travel from India to Italy to England and ultimately to a fantastical near-future Zambia in this sweeping, lush novel.

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore: A stunning, dramatic reimagining of the story of Liberia’s early years told through three unforgettable characters who share supernatural abilities.

The Theory of Flight by Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu: An unnamed African country’s violence and AIDS epidemic provide the backdrop to an exceptional woman’s personal story in this moving, mystical novel.

A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi: A Ugandan woman growing in the 1970s searches for answers about her mother from a local witch who shares stories about their culture’s heritage of female strength in this riveting novel.

Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda: In this atmospheric, bittersweet tale, a professional mourner is reunited with a woman from his village and joins forces with her to build new lives for themselves in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Sacred River by Syl Cheney-Coker: Two hundred years after his death, Haitian emperor Henri Christophe appears in a dream to the president of a fictional West African country with instructions to continue his rule in this sweeping tale mixing myth and magic.

I highlighted a few of my personal favorite titles in the slideshow and am looking forward to reading even more! Have you read any great magical realism from Africa? Let me know! And, check back in with me next Monday as we move to another region.

Published by Kristi

Hi there! I am Kristi, a book obsessed human with strong opinions. Join me as I read across genres and do the work to find you the best of the best books.

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