Kenyan literature is made up of a wide range of written and oral works produced in the country of East Africa. Some of the works are about the rich diverse modern cultures of the region, its history, and its amazing people. Many of them are folktales that have been passed down from century to century.
As a result, it is false to assume, as has been done in the past, that the rise of Kenyan literature coincided with the arrival of British rule and the spread of the English language. English was then imposed on people as a means of enacting a cultural replacement. Locals changed this weapon of native destruction into revolution and growth. English became one of the two national languages other than Swahili that Kenyan writers could unite under to express their unique customs and values. Not just within the country but worldwide. Searching for Kenya beach houses? Click below to stay in Mombasa South Coast and experience the ultimate literary trip in East Africa.
The top English-language Kenyan literary works from the early 20th century to the present are featured in this guide. Literary fiction, modern fiction, poetry, satire, biography, and children’s books are among the genres covered. Fun and humor, crime and mystery, political and social remarks, folklore, and mythology are all present. Of course, Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a needed addition to any list of books by African authors.
1. In 2020, 26.3% of bestsellers were written by black authors. In 2021, this fell by almost a third down to 18.0%, below even 2019 levels.
2. There are 1.8 books by black female authors for every book by a black male author.
3. In 2020, 12.1% of kids’ books examined by the CCBC featured a black/ African main character and 7.6% were written by a black/ African author.
4. Only 12.12% of children’s books are about black or African characters.
5. Only 7.64% of children’s books are written by black or African authors.
11 Unique Books by African Authors You Must Read
There are many authors in Kenya. Here are some unique books by African authors that you shouldn’t miss. Searching for books online in Kenya? Unable to find the best resorts in Mombasa or nearby? Read till the end.
1. One Day I Will Write About This Place
A literary rebirth in Kenya and East Africa was marked by Binyanvanga Wainaina’s visionary novella Discovering Home. It won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002. He published One Day I Will Write About This Place, a memoir about the events leading up to and after that historic victory, nine years later.
In the book, Wainaina reflects on major events that shaped his literary career, starting with growing up in a middle-class family in post-independent Kenya. After that, it recounts how he failed to continue his education in South Africa. Then, an emotional family reunion in Uganda, and his unique travel experiences in Kenya and other parts of East Africa.
One Day I Will Write About This Place has been compared to a love letter to modern-day Kenyan life. It provides a window into the unusual and modern literature being produced in Kenya as well as the rest of East Africa. It is one of the best books by African authors.
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2. Tracking the Scent of My Mother
Looking for the top books by African authors? Author Muthoni Garland stated that the “climate of private fear in which many children and women in our part of the world exist” served as the basis for her short story, Tracking the Scent of My Mother.
It describes the growth of a young girl who attempts to make sense of what she sees. And what she knows by linking it to the person who has had the most impact on her life—her mother.
As my father used to say, everyone who is educated will grasp that the world talks in proverbs. Garland’s novella, dubbed a tragicomedy about an incest survivor, made the 2006 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlist.
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3. The Coachroach Dance
Meja Mwangi has won awards in Kenya as well as abroad for his dark comedic portrayals of current Kenyan issues in his novels and screenplays. The Cockroach Dance, released in 1979, continues the pattern by focusing on the struggles of young urban people who want to succeed in life.
Dusman Gonzaga, a parking meter reader who resides in the Dacca House slum tells the tale from his point of view. Dusman is a bitter character who despises everything around him. He is tired of the horrible state of his leased home, which is infested with cockroaches. Then, he makes an effort to make things right by rallying his neighbors to oppose the landlord, but his efforts are met with only muted support.
As a parking meter reader, he would die. In place of a gravestone that read “Here lies the one who thought he could get away,” they would bury him with a parking meter. The Cockroach Dance, a comical peek into the life of urban people battling poverty, is just as relevant today as it was forty years ago. Need more books by African authors? Keep reading.
4. Pamela the Probation Officer
Pamela the Probation Officer is one of the most famous books by African authors and was published by Kenya’s Phoenix Publishers. When a newborn is left in front of her office door, probation officer Pamela, who recently received her license, is forced to interrupt her morning tasks. A dramatic tale of who, what, and when follows as Pamela works with family, friends, and co-workers to solve the mystery of the baby’s ancestry.
Pamela the Probation Officer is a beloved children’s book that has never been out of print. It shares traits with Cynthia Hunter’s previous works in that it centers on a young, independent woman navigating Kenya which is also growing. Keep an eye out for Hunter’s other intriguing releases, Truphena City Nurse and Anna the Air Hostess.
5. A Grain of Wheat
A Grain of Wheat, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s third book, was published during a time of transition in his life. Shortly after its 1967 release, he left Christianity, dropped the colonial name James Ngugi, and started penning works in Gikuyu, his native dialect.
A Grain of Wheat is known as a tough but rewarding book. It swings between past and current narrators as it describes what happened to a group of villages during the historic 1952–1960 Emergency.
The ancestors bravely fought. But do you know what the enemy’s most potent weapon is against them? Not the Maxim gun, though. They were divided as a result. Why? Because a unified people of faith is more powerful than a bomb. He shows the terrible physical, psychological, and social effects of British rule on the Kenyan people. That is why it is one of the top books by African authors of all time.
6. Facing Mount Kenya
Facing Mount Kenya, written by Kenya’s first president – Jomo Kenyatta, is more of an anthropology book on the social structures of African society. As seen through the eyes of the Kikuyu tribe, it is a personal work and one of the most sought-after books by African authors. Themes like life and death, work and play, sex and family life, and spirituality and religion are all covered.
Facing Mount Kenya provides a complete chronicle of the deep and intricate workings of age-old African society. It is an effort to dispel European claims of superiority through its insightful socio-cultural studies. Do you also want to know about the best places in Kenya? Click below.
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7. Not Yet Uhuru
The 1967 memoir of Oginga Odinga, one of Kenya’s most famous freedom fighters and a founding father of the current political opposition, is titled Not Yet Uhuru. It is one of the most critically acclaimed books by African authors.
It describes many people who took part in the fight against British rule and provides an alternative viewpoint on Kenya’s war for freedom. It also analyses Kenya’s political landscape before, during, and after British rule. It also offers an intriguing look at the inner workings of the political elite of the time.
The Luos of Central Nyanza had heard that the White people were so soft that even if you touched them, the skin would stay in your fingers. However, they will arrive in storms and set fire to the people. Anyone interested in Kenyan politics should read Not Yet Uhuru. Because it offers another but similar view on earlier events. All of which impacted the structure of the current ruling party.
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8. Son of Woman in Mombasa
Son of Woman in Mombasa, a 1990 release, is the follow-up to Charles Mangua’s infamous 1971 novel Son of Woman. Follow Dodge Kiunya, the titular Son of Woman, as he begins a career as a black marketeer and considers running for office, it continues where the first book left off.
It offers a fictional portrait of Kenyan maleness in the after-freedom age and is rife with Mangua’s caustic humor. The book has come under criticism for the way it portrays prejudice and misogyny. Especially when it comes to women who are portrayed as faceless, jaded creatures seeking to trap men. However, it is still regarded as a fun read that provides useful details about the working class of Kenyan society in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
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9. Links of a Chain
In the 1996 spy thriller novel by Monica Genya, a female secret agent searches for evidence of a plot to overthrow the government. Susan Juma, a top agent with the Bureau of Investigative Operations, has been tasked with looking into a number of high-profile political killings that took place in the nation. She soon learns of a sinister scheme by the enigmatic King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table to depose the state’s leaders.
Juma enlists former field agent Chain to assist her in defeating their schemes. The two set off on a mission to purge the nation of the evil secret society. ‘Links of a Chain’ is often removed from Kenya’s literary lists. But, it is advised to read since it presents a strong female lead in the usual male-dominated genre of crime and thriller.
When ecologist Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace,” she became well-known around the world. In her memoir, Unbowed, Maathai examines the events that led up to that historic point in her life.
She describes how she evolved from a rustic country girl to a tough ecologist and political activist. She was known for fighting the harsh regime of former president Daniel Arap Moi in the book. She talks about her love for nature and how she founded the Green Belt Movement. It is a project focused on protecting the environment that has since extended from Kenya across Africa.
Maathai’s Unbowed is a riveting narrative by one of Kenya’s pioneers in ecological and climate support. It should be a must-read for anybody interested in making the world a better place.
Sulwe is one of the most lovely children’s books by African authors. It is the work of Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. It covers colorism, self-esteem, and true beauty in a way that will appeal to Black readers of all ages.
Sulwe, who has the color of midnight, finds it hard to accept her own beauty. She feels cut off from everyone in her home and at school. A magical flight across the night sky, however, will transform everything and let her see what true beauty truly is.
Sulwe was shaped by Nyong’o’s own personal journey as a dark-skinned kid growing up in a society that values fair skin. It is an advised read for young people everywhere, regardless of color. It can be found in English, Swahili, and Dholuo dialects.
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Travel to Msambweni to Experience the Books by African Authors
Visiting many cities in Kenya? Looking for prices of hotels in Mombasa? Where is Msambweni in Kenya? Celebrate your holidays in Kenya. Msambweni is located in Kwale County near Ukunda Kenya. It offers a beautiful coastal setting and a rich cultural heritage. How far is Msambweni from Mombasa? And it is only 30 minutes away from Diani (south coast Mombasa). There may not be specific bookstores or literary events dedicated to African authors in Msambweni Kenya. But you can indulge in the world of African literature and explore the local literary scene. You can do that by talking to the locals, visiting libraries and bookstores and even checking out online platforms.
But the kind of place, people, culture, and history you read in books, you can’t experience it unless you travel to that place. Finding nice places to visit in Mombasa or near? Stay at Msambweni Beach House in Kenya to make the most of your literary trip and find the best books by African authors. Read below to know what else can you do here. And how you can turn your trip into something more than just reading books and exploring places. Besides that, Msambweni weather is pleasant all year round. Looking for beachfront villas in Msambweni or luxury villas in Msambweni? Read below.
Looking for south coast villas in Kenya? Forget beach hotels in Mombasa Kenya! Msambweni Beach Resort is the best beach resort in Kenya that features a private 3km stretch of white sand beach, Indian Ocean views, lush gardens, and pure luxury. Imagine a Main House with 3 en-suite bedrooms and 1 Ocean suite showcasing all modern amenities like Satellite TV, Wi-Fi, etc., and sharing an infinity pool. Then imagine 3 opulent private Msambweni villas, each with its own personal pools and direct beach access.
Looking for the best restaurants in Mombasa or near? Are you a foodie? Are you waiting to try Michelin-star recipes? Do you like to have your meals by the pool and beach? Savor the best of Swahili dishes, fresh seafood, and French and Belgian cuisines prepared by our talented kitchen staff at Msambweni Beach Hotel. You can have it anywhere at this Msambweni hotel, in your private villa, under the stars by the poolside, or even by the beach listening to the ocean breeze.
It is one of the top hotels in Kwale County. Besides reading and visiting main attractions like Kisite Marine Park, you can enjoy ping pong, beach volleyball, mountain biking, and more on-site activities at one of the top hotels in south coast Mombasa. Buy the best souvenirs at our Kurio Shop or get a relaxing massage by the beach. Are you looking for outdoor adventures in Kenya? We can arrange scuba diving in Kenya, kite surfing, Shimba Hills tours, mangrove and sandbank excursions, and more. There are many more activities in Kenya to try. Click below.
Save Your Favorite Books by African Authors for Later
We have explored some of the most celebrated books by African authors. Each offers a unique view of life, history, and culture. From Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo to Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta, these literary gems showcase the rich story traditions and diverse voices of Africa. As you embark on your reading journey, these books promise to transport you to many worlds, challenge your views, and ignite your curiosity.
How to become a freelance writer in Kenya? Which books by African authors do you like best? Which African authors are your favorites? Which of these books helped you learn more about its history and culture? Do you think we should add any to our list? Searching for beautiful places in Mombasa or near? Please tell us in the comments.