#YNaija2021Review: Sankofa, The Madhouse, New Chimamanda…See the Most Notable Books of the Year

The books that mattered this year.

All Shades of Iberibe- Kasimma

Perhaps the most attention- grabbing debut of the year, All Shades of Iberibe was written by Kasimma, an alumnus of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s famous creative writing workshop. This brilliant short story collection delves into the spaces between mythical Nigerian traditions and contemporary concerns. The stories move from the mundane to the supernatural with Kasimma giving words- and form- to typical traditions.

An Ordinary Wonder- Buki Papillon

Boston based Nigerian born writer made a splash this year with her debut title, a progressive narrative about a boy’s secret intersex identity and his desire to live as a girl. An Ordinary Wonder is a terrific coming-of-age story exploring complex desires as well as what it means to feel whole. Papillon draws on her fertile imagination plus traditional proverbs and folklore to challenge preconceived ideas of family, identity and gender.

An Unusual Grief- Yewande Omotoso

When her daughter dies, a woman moves into the deceased’s apartment in a bid to come to terms with the daughter she barely knew. This singular decision sends her on an intense and rewarding journey of self-discovery and renewal. Omotoso’s latest is a bold and unflinching tale of a person’s unconventional approach to life, love and loss.

Dear Senthuran- Akweke Emezi

In this utterly transfixing memoir, bestselling author Akwaeke Emezi reveals harrowing yet resolute truths about their own life. Through intimate correspondence with friends, lovers, and family, in Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir, Emezi traces the unfolding of a self and the unforgettable journey of a creative spirit stepping into power in the human world.

The Madhouse-TJ Benson

In this exhilarating debut novel, TJ Benson conjures up a weird kaleidoscope of Nigeria past and present. This is the story of five people bound by blood, each searching for a way through. A colonial era house is ground zero for a spellbinding tale about the clashes between cultures, the impact of fragile political situations on everyday people, and the lengths people are willing- and able- to go in order to save their loved ones. Top of Form

Nearly All the Men in Lagos are Mad- Damilare Kuku

The dramatic yet utterly relatable title, plus the vibrant packaging immediately announces actress turned writer Damilare Kuku’s debut short story collection as a must read. Funny, biting and totally relatable, the twelve short stories in this collection feature characters with interesting experiences as they navigate find love and companionship in the center of excellence that isn’t quite one. How long till Nollywood makes a big screen adaptation?

New York, My Village- Uwem Akpan

Uwem Akpan’s follow up to his 2008 bestseller, Say You’re One of Them is a sprawling narrative filledwith exuberant storytelling, wry comedy, dark history, and devastating satire. In this story of a Nigerian editor navigating New York and his collection of memories, the Jesuit priest melds humor, tenderness, and pain to explore the myriad ways that tribalism defines life everywhere, from the villages of Nigeria to those within New York City itself.

Notes on Grief- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

After losing her father in 2020, literary giant Adichie put the associated thoughts and feelings to writing in a New Yorker essay that was received well enough to inspire her publishers to adapt it to book form. Expanding on the original essay, Notes on Grief, presented in the same compact format as previous Adichie titles, We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele is a deeply felt meditation on love, loss, remembrance, and hope.

Sankofa- Chibundu Onuzo

A woman’s search from her absent father- a former dictator of a tiny West African nation- leads her on a remarkable journey of self-discovery and belonging.Sankofa, the third novel by Onuzo examines freedom, prejudice, and family inheritance while addressing universal but complex questions of race, colonization and even liberation. SEE LESS

The Stolen Daughters of Chibok- Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode

CEO of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF) and custodian of the legacy of the former head of state embarked on an ambitious project to interview, photograph, and document the accounts of the parents of each of the missing Chibok girls. Muhammed- Oyebode and her team managed to meet the relatives of 201 of them. This collection of essays, interviews and photographs is a tribute to the now famous girls some of whom remain in captivity.

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