Southern Crosses: An African Ghost Story, written by DA Winstead and self-published in 2012, brings together two women—a black American, and a South African of mixed race. Both have grown up in rural and racially oppressive environments and both have challenges to contend with in their adulthood. But they help each other in different ways and develop a remarkable and enduring friendship along the way. The story is rich in historical and cultural detail on the black American past, and on pre and post-Apartheid South Africa. It’s also a skillful insight into the possible dynamics and intrigues within foreign offices.
Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories’ is the third collection of short stories by celebrated Ghanaian author, Ama Ata Aidoo. Published by Ayebia Clarke in 2012, eleven of the twelve stories are narrated by women and are about every day concerns relating to age, class, colour and identity. But Ms Aidoo delves into the psyche of the women, most of them strong-willed, well-educated and assertive, to show the devastating impact of these seemingly ordinary concerns. Some of the stories are based in Ghana, others in the west and still others move backwards and forwards between the two areas.
Published by Heinemann in 1992, Contemporary African Short Stories is an anthology of stories edited by CL Innes and the late Chinua Achebe. The two are also editors of an earlier work entitled African Short Stories, published also by Heinemann in 1987. The later work features 20 stories written between 1980 and 1991 and which, once again, showcase the range and depth of African writing. They tell of adversity, strife and endurance in a mostly unsympathetic post-colonial environment, and examine the place of realism, superstition and fantasy in those struggles.
Six Feet of the Country is a short story collection by seasoned South African writer, Nadine Gordimer. Published by Penguin in 1982, it comprises her seven ‘best’ stories from previously published collections. Although her country’s racial segregation policy—which strongly underpins the collection—has since been abandoned, these stories are likely to serve as an epitaph of apartheid for many years to come. Told through a range of voices, they still have the power to shock and disturb.
The late Mongo Beti (1932 – 2001) ranks among Cameroon’s foremost writers and Mission to Kala, although light-hearted and entertaining, is underpinned by a moral message. Published in 2008 by Mallory, the book is an engaging tale of a young man’s adventure in a remote village of colonial Cameroon which he visits on a do-good mission for a relative. His western education makes him a hit with many, but also lays him open to exploitation by others. He, however, emerges from his adventure with a deeper sense of self and a certainty that he must deal with the real challenge in his life—his father.
Christopher Mlalazi’s Many Rivers, published by Lion Press Ltd in 2009, is a chilling account of a border jumper’s ordeal when he leaves his native Zimbabwe for South Africa in the late 1990s. Qinisela who is from Bulawayo, in southern Zimbabwe, is escaping a low-paid factory job and an economic crisis which is just beginning to bite. Like other like-minded, he has his sights on Egoli – the place of gold – as Johannesburg is famed.
Published by Heinemann in 1979 and set in colonial Nigeria, Buchi Emecheta’s Joys of Motherhood is a satirical look at the supposed thrills of motherhood. Her focus is an Ibo woman, Nnu Ego who through endless pregnancies, toil and degradation and a Nigeria in transition, struggles with a motherhood role defined for her by tradition, patriarchy and superstition.
Senegalese author, Sembene Ousmane ‘s two novellas, The Money Order with White Genesis (published by Heinemann in 1972), highlight how societies in modern Africa struggle with moral issues and unusual situations. Dieng experiences bureaucratic incompetence and deceit in “The Money Order” which leads him to a public act of despair, while in “White Genesis”, the decline of a way of life is examined through a tragic tale of incest.
Joseph Diescho’s Troubled Waters is a tale of the dilemmas thrown up by the Aparthied system. Diescho delves deeply into the minds of both Afrikaner and black to emerge with a picture of people who are both clever and discerning, but helpless to alter the system they find themselves in. Instead they must tread carefully and stealthily.
Sindiwe Magona’s To My Children’s Children is a memoir that covers the first 23 years of Magona’s life. It is a tale of growth and survival within the restrictions of Apartheid and the African traditional system. Magona’s style is easy and compelling and never descends into monologue or documentary. The story begins in 1940 in a Xhosa village called Gungululu, near the Cape Province of the Union of South Africa. It is here that Magona was born and where, up to age 4, she and some of her siblings, and a plethora of cousins, grow up in a matriarchal household headed by a maternal great grandmother.