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Lists of writers are never comprehensive, but they are a great means to introduce people to topics. They are intended to convince the reader to engage with them. This list of 25 African women writers isn’t complete, but for those who have not encountered literary works from African women, this is a great start.
The African literary industry is on the rise and African titles are gracing shelves across the world. Even the smallest independent bookshops will have at least one copy of Chimamanda’s Purple Hibiscus or Half of a Yellow Sun. I remember walking into one such bookshop in Edinburg and marvelling at the extensive collection of African literary works. And I am not talking about the works from the 60s by Achebe, Soyinka and their peers that dominated the African literary scene for decades. The bookshop seemed to be attuned to the contemporary African literary industry and had books from writers such as Petina Gappah, Chinelo Okaraparanta and Teju Cole.
However, what makes this list particularly special is the fact that it shows the strides that have been made by African women to break into a male-dominated industry. For many years, the number of African women writers was not more than a handful. That we have a list of 25 that’s far from comprehensive is worth celebrating. The Heinemann series of writers from the 60s was mostly men, and it was not until the 21st century that we started to see literary works from women seeping into the literary mainstream.
In fact, it’s recently been suggested that women are currently dominating the African literary industry from writing to publishing. Publishing power houses such as Cassava Republic, Huza Press and Sooo Many Stories are run by women. The female writers that make up this list have become global household names and are worth reading if only to provide a glimpse of contemporary African writing.