Tricia Nwaubani Adaobi Picture/Linda Ikeji's Blog
Tricia Nwaubani Adaobi Picture/Linda Ikeji’s Blog

A few days ago, the 39 top writers under 40 in Africa were announced to much aplomb. The list was designed to be a snapshot of the African writing space at the moment and I applaud the team for their sterling work.

Reading the list however, I noticed that this one was based on work that had been submitted to the people compiling the list who would judge it based on what they saw to be the best. The judges have to work with what is put before them and therefore these are the best of the people who submitted. The thing is that I come from the school of thought that for one to be considered a serious writer one needs to have one of their works having gone through the whole publishing process. Thus they must have submitted a manuscript to a publisher who was happy to accept it. They will have then gone through rewrites, mad editing, and then through the packaging process with design and what it entails.

Thus one must have gone through and out of it and come out with either a novel or a collection of short stories. With this in mind you will note that some in the acclaimed list have not gone through the publishing process (and I include a short story written in an anthology here) and thus I don’t consider them to be true representatives of the next level of writing the African novel. According to the ratings, these are but aspiring Novelists.

With this in mind I figured that perhaps we want to come up with a new list. A list of people who have gone through the fire of manuscript approval until it sees the light of day as a novel/short story collection. These in my opinion will be the folks who will be churning out books in the near future as we have already seen the fruits of their work. The list isn’t just one of my favourite writers. Some I do not like as much as others but they have their work in bookshops around the continent and further afield. Others are some of the most feted African writers and it would be remiss to have a list of top African novelists without them in it. Here is my list of the Top 40 African writers Under 40 in the English language. The emphasis on that language is obvious; it is the only language I am quite comfortable giving an opinion on. I don’t speak French and the other language I am strong in – Swahili I have not read enough books in. The list is, drum roll….

  1. Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani – I do not come to you by chance

  2. Adichie Ngozi Chimamanda – Purple Hibiscus/Half of a Yellow Sun/Americanah

  3. Ali Richard – City of Memories

  4. Barret A Igoni – Love Is Power, Or Something Like That:

  5. Batanda Jackee Budesta – Everyday People/Our Time of Sorrow

  6. Beukes Lauren – Moxy Land/Zoo City/The Shining Girls

  7. Bulawayo Noviolet – We Need New Names

  8. Cole Teju – Everyday is for a thief/Open City

  9. Dibia Jude – Walking With Shadows/Unbridled/Blackbird

  10. Gabonewe Tuelo – Planet Savage

  11. Gazemba Stanley – The Stone Hills of the Maragoli /Callused Hands

  12. Golakai Hawa J – The Lazarus Effect

  13. Gitaa Moraa – Crucible for Silver & Furnace for Gold/Shifting Sands

  14. Hassim Shafinaaz – Sophia

  15. Huchu Tendai – The Hairdresser of Harare

  16. Iweala Uzodinma – Beasts of no nation

  17. Jele Cynthia – Happiness is a Four Letter Word

  18. Jennings Karen – Finding Soutbek

  19. Kombani Kinyanjui – The Last Villains of Molo/Den of Inequities

  20. Mabura Lily – The Pretoria Conspiracy

  21. Makholwa Angela – Red Ink/The 30th Candle/The Black Widow Society

  22. Matlwa Kopano – Coconut/Spilt Milk

  23. Mbugua Ng’ang’a – The Terrorists of the Aberdares/Different Colours

  24. Mengestu Dinaw -The Beautiful things that Heaven Bears/Children of the revolution/How to Read the Air/All Our Names.

  25. Mgqolozana Thando – A Man Is Not A Man/Hear Me Alone/Unimportance

  26. Moele Kgebetli – Room 207/Book of the dead/Untitled

  27. Mohamed Nadifa – Black Mamba Boy/ The Orchid of Lost Souls

  28. Molope Kagiso – Dancing in the Dust/The Mending Season/This Book Betrays My Brother

  29. Mzobe Sifiso – Young Blood

  30. Omotoso Yewande – Bom Boy

  31. Onuzo Chibundu – The Spider Kings Daughter

  32. Oyeyemi Helen – The Icarus Girl/The Opposite House/White is for Witching/Mr Fox/Boy, Snow, Bird

  33. Parkes Nii Ayikwei – Tail of the Blue Bird

  34. Popoola Tolulope – Nothing Comes Close

  35. Twinamatsiko Nick– The Chwezi Code

  36. Unigwe Chika – Black Sisters Street

  37. Wanner Zukiswa – The Madams/Behind Every Successful Man/Men of The South/London, Cape Town, Joburg.

  38. Watson Mary – Moss/The Cutting Room.

  39. Your suggestion goes here…

Give me your favourite novelist under 40 and they get their name out to the literature world.