Africa, the land where I spent the first 18 years of my life, conjures modern images of suffering, conflict, and poverty. Darfur, disease, genocide, ruthless dictators, blood diamonds, land mines, famines — we’ve all seen the headlines.
And yet, Africa continues to show it’s sunnier face in some of the new books written by sons, daughter, and lovers of the continent, who write about their experiences of suffering with honesty, but with also with undiminished hope. Here are a few recent titles that demonstrate this with eloquence:
Running for my Life recounts the true story of a Sudanese boy who overcame a wartorn nation to become an American citizen and an Olympic contender. The Queen of Katwe tells the real-life story of an impoverished Ugandan teen is introduced to chess and overcomes great poverty to become her country’s current national champion. In A Thousand Hills to Heaven, American newlyweds open a gourmet restaurant in Rwanda, where they use local ingredients, create jobs, and show a country still nursing scars of genocide and poverty that anything is possible. (I’ve checked with my friends living in Rwanda and the restaurant is thriving!
And if fiction is more to your taste, I recommend Baking Cakes in Kigali where baker Angel Tungaraza provides decadent confections and transforming counsel to troubled customers in the genocide-riven Rwanda. Or, Alexander McCall Smith’s fictional No. 1 Ladies Detective Club series, set in Botswana, which glows with human warmth and humor in the midst of a country ravaged by the AIDS epidemic.
If Africans are well-known for their ability to persevere through difficulties, they are as equally famous for their storytelling and humor. These books have all of those things in abundance!