We shine a light on the many books that were produced in African and Black Literature and give you our top picks.

It was a very productive year for writing in the African and Black community as publications came out in record numbers. This year we saw many more poetry collections, novels and novellas, essay collections, anthologies, and loads more. Some of the ones we covered here at James Murua Literary were Women, Visibility and Morality in Kenyan Popular Media by Dina Ligaga; Sensuous Knowledge by Minna Salami; Nairobi Noir edited by Peter Kimani; We, The Scarred by Mukoma Wa Ngugi; The Waiting by Martin Egblewogbe; Sacraments of Bodies by Romeo Oriogun; The Digital Bedbugs edited by Makena Onjerika; No Roses From My Mouth by Stella Nyanzi; Ogadinma Or, Everything Will Be All Right by Ukamaka Olisakwe; Ayesha Harruna Attah, The Deep Blue Between; South B’s Finest by Makena Maganjo; Imperfect Arrangements by Frances Mensah Williams; Afterland by Lauren Beukes; A Fledgling Abiba by Dilman Dila; Little Family by Ishmael Beah; End Of The Dream: 7 Short Stories On Postcolonial World Order edited by Eliphas Nyamogo; A Man Who Is Not A Man by Thando Mgqolozana; The Danfo Driver in All of Us by Niran Adedokun; Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron; All My Lies Are True by Dorothy Koomson; A Engenharia Da Morte by Melio Tinga; Limbe to Lagos: Nonfiction from Cameroon and Nigeria edited by Emmanuel Iduma, Dami Ajayi, and Dzekashu MacViban; Addis Ababa Noir edited by Maaza Mengiste; Les Jours Viennent Et Passent by Hemley Boum; The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi; Let’s Talk About This by Moraa Gitaa; Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor; Rumeurs d’Amérique by Alain Mabanckou; Quando O Solar by Oliver Pilar; And Wrote My Story Anyway: Black South African women’s novels as feminism by Barbara Boswell; Salt Body Shimmer by Aricka Foreman; The Great Escape: Memories of Tribal Violence and I Am Listening by Andrew Maina; The First Woman/A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi; Ejo: Suivi de Lézardes et autres Nouvelles by Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse; Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi; Letter From a Plow Nation by Dr Worku Mulat;  Paradise In Gaza by Niq Mhlongo; Stranger Faces by Namwali Serpell; The Geez by Nii Ayikwei Parkes; Critical But Stable by Angela Makholwa; Dance of the Monkeys by Ciku Kimeria; The History of Man by Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu; A Family Affair by Sue Nyathi; Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka; Accra Noir edited by Nana-Ama Danquah; No Time to Mourn: An anthology by South Sudanese Women edited by Hilda J Twongyeirwe and Elizabeth Ashamu Deng; and Poetic Justice: An Anthology of Contemporary Moroccan Poetry (Modern Middle East Literatures in Translation) edited by Deborah Kapchan.

We weren’t the only one covering this space with Brittle Paper compiling an excellent list of 50 Notable African Books of 2020, Johannesburg Review of Books continues the work of the books coming out with excerpts from some of the best out there.

Here are our picks from a year that had record output. It is compiled from our own lists as well as trolling through sites like Arablit.org, Brittle paper, Book of Cinz, and loads more.

  • Fiction

North Africa:  Ahmad Abdulatif, The Earthen Fortress (Arabic)
East Africa: Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse, Ejo: Suivi de Lézardes et autres Nouvelles (French);  Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, The First Woman/A Girl is a Body of Water
West Africa: Ishmael Beah, Little Family (English); Hemley Boum, Les Jours Viennent Et Passent (French)
Southern Africa:  Melio Tinga, A Engenharia Da Morte (Portuguese); Dudu Busani-Dube, Iqunga (English)
North America: Tayari Jones, Silver Sparrow;
Caribbean: Maryse Condé, The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana
South America: Itamar Vieira Junior, Torto Arado
Europe (before Brexit):
Candice Carty-Williams, Queenie

Debut Novel: Raven Leilani, Luster; Makena Maganjo, South B’s Finest
Historical Fiction: Marisel Vera, The Taste of Sugar;
Young Adult:  Ayesha Harruna Attah, The Deep Blue Between; Kacen Callender, King and the Dragonflies;
LBGTQ related novel:  Nicole Dennis-Benn, Patsy
LBGTQ related anthology:
Speculative Fiction: Kalynn Bayron, Cinderella is Dead
Short Story Collection:  Abuabakar Adam Ibrahim, Dreams and Assorted Nightmares; Chimeka Garricks, A Broken People’s Playlist.
Anthology: Joburg Noir edited by Niq Mhlongo

  • Poetry

Southern Africa:  Musawenkosi Khanyile, All The Places
West Africa:  Romeo Oriogun, Sacraments of Bodies (English); Nimrod’s Petit Praise De La Lumière Nature (French)
East Africa: Songs We Learn from Trees: An Anthology of Ethiopian Amharic Poetry
North Africa:
Richard Georges, Epiphaneia
North America:
Danez Smith, Homie: Poems (English);
South America: Querem nos Calar. Poemas para serem lidos em voz alta
Europe (before Brexit): Paul Mendez, Rainbow Milk; Inua Ellams, The Actual (English)

  • Nonfiction

Bridecode Whistleblower book:  Joe Khamisi, The Bribery Syndrome: How Multinational Corporations Collude with Dictators to Raid Africa’s Natural Resources;
Biography: Dikgang Moseneke, All Rise: A Judicial Memoir
Essays: Alain Mabanckou, Rumeurs d’Amérique (French); Laila Lalami, Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America (English); Andre Bagoo, The Undiscovered Country: Essays (English); Johny Pitts, Afropean: Notes from Black Europe (English);
Young Adult: Trevor Noah, Born A Crime, Edition for Young Readers