Barack Obama Highlights African Literature in Summer Reading List

 

Most of the country desperately is missing President Barack Obama right about now. But he’s just going about his summer, getting ready for a trip to Africa.

Indeed, 44 is set to deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture to 200 young African leaders in Johannesburg this week. It marks what would have been Mandela’s 100th birthday. On behalf of the Obama Foundation, it will be Obama’s first trip to Africa since leaving office, and arguably his most important post-presidency speech yet.

To mark the occasion, he shared a list of his favorite books, most by African authors.

“Over the years I’ve often drawn inspiration from Africa’s extraordinary literary tradition,” Obama said in a Facebook post. “As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I’d recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers – each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.”

 

Things Fall Apart
By Chinua Achebe

“A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.”

 


 

A Grain of Wheat
By Ngugi wa Thiong’o

“A chronicle of the events leading up to Kenya’s independence, and a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships.”

 


 

Long Walk to Freedom
By Nelson Mandela

“Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it.”

 


 

Americanah
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.”

 


 

The Return
By Hisham Matar

“A beautifully-written memoir that skillfully balances a graceful guide through Libya’s recent history with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons.”

 


 

The World As It Is
By Ben Rhodes

“It’s true, Ben does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House.”

 

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