We present to you the outstanding players in African and Black Literature 2020 for the past year in our annual James Murua Literary Top picks.

In 2016, we here at James Murua Literary introduced what we called the “Outstanding African Literary Awards” where we gave you a look at the year with a focus on the best of the best in all categories we could imagine.  It was our way of summarising what had happened in the past year in a light-hearted way. We have continued with our top picks for 2017, 2018, and 2019. This year we have opted to give it a more proper title in “Top Picks for 2020” which are more representative of what we are doing.

What a year 2020 was. It all started well enough for the literary world with many activities planned but two things happened to change the course of history. And not in a good way. The first was a new illness first identified in Wuhan, spread by Coronavirus given the nameCovid-19, that was highly infectious and at the time not much was known about by the public.

Everyone would know more about it as it moved across the planet at breakneck speed. One of the only known methods of curbing its spread, or flattening the curve, was to keep populations quarantined away from one another. This “new normal” had both positive and negative effects on the writing and publishing world. More books were bought by people who were sitting in their homes that did not want to spend time as much online as they had to especially for work. Events were cancelled altogether, went fully virtual, or there was a mix of the two. There was also a rash of new events that brought together people who would rarely have done things together without this new state of affairs.

The second happened on May 25, Africa Day no less, when African American George Floyd was killed in broad daylight on the streets of Minneapolis. The graphic video spread across the world with people who were locked in and had the time to sit and watch it. The anger wasn’t just in the US which has quite a few of these incidents but it spilled across borders with the Black Lives Matter movement that was started in 2013 getting a new lease of life.

That event spawned discussions across the Black writing world especially when #PublishingPaidMe, a Twitter hashtag, exposed the unequal nature of the publishing industry. Those who were male and white, as expected are paid much more than those who were female and/or not white. The Black writing community came even closer to one another across region, language, and continent. The latter event shifted the focus of this website slightly as we opted to include our brothers and sisters, our cousins, even our rivals, never enemies, from across oceans in our coverage.

In our look at the year, we start with those that passed away in the previous year as well as the books that we saw, and the awards that were handed out in the jurisdictions that we follow.

  • Transition: Writers and poets who passed away in 2020.
  • Books: Books in African and Black Literature that came out in 2020; we also give you some of our favourites.
  • Awards: All the awards that were handed out in African and Black Literature in 2020.
  • Literary festivals and book fairs: Literary festivals and book fairs around African and Black Literature in 2020
  • Platforms: those that raised African and Black literature in 2020.