As Nigeria struggles to promote its reading culture, its literature has transcended old wiles; culture, and tradition. Nigerian literature now explores themes such as feminism, beauty, love, postcolonial identity, abuse, violence, and patriotism, as well as contemporary fiction. Nigerian authors have gotten stellar reviews beyond their immediate borders and cultural environments.
While there are praises still sung of the older generation of Nigerian authors like the Chinua Achebes and the Wole Soyinkas, there is a long line of talented writers in Nigeria exploring different themes such as the renowned Chimamanda Adichie and the enigmatic Teju Cole. Still, the country is filled with more talented writers that are able to stretch the imagination and capture the attention of readers and getting recognition for them.
Here is a short literary trip of some contemporary Nigerian authors that give not just a strong representation of Nigerian/African experiences but introspective experiences that are relatable to people from different parts of the world.
In the publishing industry, science fiction-fantasy is a genre that lacks diversity especially for people of colour. Nnedi is starting to change that narrative, by writing stories with Africa as the background.
A professor of creative writing and literature at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), Nnedi tackles weighty social issues such as racial and gender inequality, political violence, genocide and corruption through the scope of fantasy. Her stories place black girls in important roles that are usually given to white characters. The themes of her stories are often multi-layered and grounded in stories of the women and girls around her and also within herself.
Nnedi Okorafor names Nigeria as “her muse” as she is heavily influenced by Nigerian folklore and its rich mythology and mysticism.
Nnedi Okorafor short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines and she’s an author of 11 books. Some of these books include Who Fears Death which will be adapted for an HBO series, Akata Witch, Kabu Kabu, Akata Warrior, Binti, Zahrah the Windseeker (winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature).
Ijeoma is a brilliant writer of prose and poems. Her words have the ability to speak to your naked self. Her works have been translated to Portuguese, Turkish, Spanish, Russian, and French. Ijeoma Umebinyuo was named one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s greatest contemporary poets in 2016.
Her book, Questions for Ada; a collection of short stories and poems, reflects on womanhood, sisterhood, and love. This book comes as a nudge to women to embrace their flaws, to journey on through the murky waters of society. It is a call for young women to learn from their mothers, sift through their experiences and demand to be respected and appreciated.
As poetic as Ijeoma is, she is just as blunt. Ijeoma believes women have to stand up and shun off intimidation and mediocrity. That irrespective of the oppression they face, women have to rise up and fully claim the position of their gender.
Named, one of Ijeoma Umbiyuo’s short stories and poems have appeared in various publications, including The Stockholm Review of Literature, The Wildness, The Rising Phoenix Review and The MacGuffin. Her first collection of prose poems and poems, Questions for Ada, embodies the pain, passion, and power that Ijeoma brings to her work.
Lola Shoneyin is a Nigerian poet and author whose debut novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, which got her on the long list for the Orange Prize in the UK. Shoneyin is renowned as a feminist, a daring and humorous poet.
Some of her previous work appeared in Post Express, which features a short story about a Nigerian woman who leaves her husband for an Austrian woman. This story sparked a discourse about homosexuality within a Nigerian context.
Lola has published three volumes of poetry; So All the Time I was Sitting on an Egg, Song of a Riverbird, For the Love of Flight. Some of her books include Harlot, Mayowa and the Masquerades and the popular The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.
Lola Shoneyin is the Founder and Director of Book Buzz Foundation, an NGO established in 2012 for the promotion of arts and culture within local and global spaces. She runs the prominent Aké Arts and Book Festival, that seeks to connect more young people to African literature by de-emphasizing profit-making. Lola also co-founded Infusion, a popular monthly gathering for music, art and culture in Abuja.
Her personal experiences reflect a lot in her writings. In which she explores how our perceptions are changing as Nigerians, and as Africans.
Elnathan John, a satirist, writer, and lawyer whose stories have twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. Elnathan’s writing has been published in the Sentinel Nigeria, Per Contra, Hazlitt, ZAM Magazine, Evergreen Review, and Chimurenga’s The Chronic.
His first novel Born on a Tuesday was shortlisted in September 2016 for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature, Africa’s largest literary award.
Elnathan John is a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015)]. He writes a weekly satirical column for the Sunday Trust newspaper. He frequently comments on Nigerian literature, media, politics, and culture, especially on twitter.
Elnathan is very deft at portraying life behind the seduction of religious and political extremism experienced by young people. He has been touted as a writer of prodigious talent by Petina Gappah, author of ’ An Elegy for Easterly’ and winner of the Guardian First Book Award.
Elnathan is one of Nigeria’s most thoughtful and incisive writers. His ability to be both tragic and humorous is most praiseworthy.
Akwaeke Emezi is often referred to as Chimamanda Adichie’s protégé in some circles and is currently represented by Adichie’s agent Sarah Chalfant. Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Akwaeke is a writer, film producer, and video artist.
Emezi is an alumnus of Adichie’s prestigious Farafina Workshop. She’s currently long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her first autobiographical novel Freshwater is spellbinding, soulful, and stunning. It is a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. It received rave reviews from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and the LA Times, as well as starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist. Freshwater was also recognized on 2018 best/most anticipated books lists by Esquire, ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Bustle, OZY, Electric Lit, and Book Riot, among others.
Emezi’s first young adult novel, PET, will be published in 2019. She was profiled in the February 2018 issue of Vogue Magazine (Modern Families With A Cause) and Her short story ‘Who Is Like God‘ won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa.
Her experimental short film UDUDEAGU won the Audience Award for Best Short Experimental at the 2014 BlackStar Film Festival and has screened in over thirteen countries.
Igoni Barrett is a writer born to a Nigerian mother and the Jamaican novelist and poet Lindsay Barrett. He is married to the Dutch journalist and writer Femke van Zeijl. Igoni’s first book was a collection of short stories titled From Caves of Rotten Teeth, first published in 2005 and reissued in 2008.
A story from the collection, “The Phoenix”, won the 2005 BBC World Service short story competition. His second collection of stories, Love Is Power, or Something Like That, was published in 2013. It received rave reviews from the Boston Globe, and Time out New York and also chosen as “Best book of 2013” by NPR and Flavorwire.
His debut novel, Blackass, a compelling satirical masterpiece, was published in 2015. The book starkly captures the chaotic crush of Lagos, the most populous in Africa. Barrett threads a surreal tale that navigates grim notions of race, identity, postcolonialism, ethics, and the individual desire to succeed at any cost. The novel was longlisted for the inaugural FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards. Barrett’s work has appeared in many publications, including AGNI, Al Jazeera English, and Electric Literature.
Helen Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria but moved to London with her family aged four. She is an author of 5 novels. Helen’s writing usually combines elements from different cultures, such as Yoruba folklore, Cuban heritage, contemporary western culture and Gothic genre. She is carving out territory, which is hers and hers alone.
Oyeyemi signed a publishing deal while still at school and her first novel, The Icarus Girl, a ghost story about an eight-year-old girl torn between her British and Nigerian identity, received terrific reviews. Her second book The Opposite House was written while studying social and political sciences at Cambridge, where she saw two of her plays, Juniper’s Whitening and Victimese, performed by fellow students to critical acclaim, and subsequently published by Methuen.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, a short story collection recently released by Oyeyemi is non-conforming in every sense. The stories tackle themes of discovery, connections, and belonging. There’s an obvious desire in Helen’s writings to disrupt stories.
Chigozie is a writer and an Assistant Professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has been referred to as “the heir to Chinua Achebe”. In 2015, he was named one of “100 Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine.
His first novel The Fishermen, written out of the experience of the Igbo people in Nigeria, was shortlisted for the Booker in 2015.. A short story version of The Fishermen and a poem, The Road to the Country, appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review. He has also published several short stories and essays.
Chigozies’ short story, The Great Convert, was published in Transition magazine, while the Midnight Sun appeared in New Statesman. He has also published several essays like The Audacity of Prose in The Millions.
While Chigozie writing can be compared to Chinua Achebe’s, he does have a unique voice of his own. He is of the belief that the best literature is those accessible to all.
Chika Nina Unigwe is an author who writes in English and Dutch. She’s One of those that has the potential and talent to define future trends in African literature. Her debut novel, De Feniks, was shortlisted for the Vrouw en Kultuur debuutprijs for the best first novel by a female writer.
Having won the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition and a Commonwealth Short Story Competition award. Chika was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing in the subsequent year. Chika is also the author of two children’s books published by Macmillan, London
Her premiere novel, De Feniks, was the first book of fiction written by a Flemish author of African origin. Her second novel, On Black Sisters’ Street, which also has a Dutch version is about African prostitutes living and working in Belgium. Black Sisters’ Street won Africa’s largest literary prize in 2012, Nigeria Prize for Literature which is valued at $100,000.
Chika an author of four novels, is also a Bonderman Professor of Creative Writing at Brown University in Rhode Island. She sits on the Board of Trustees of pan-African literary initiative Writivism and set up the Awele Creative Trust in Nigeria to support young writers.
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a writer and journalist. Ibrahim has a unique ability to give unique insights into cultures and societies and the factors that drive them. It is evident in his writing that he has compassion for the powerless.
The Whispering Trees, a short story collection was shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2014. While the title story of the collection was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. He is both Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellow (2013), a Civitella Ranieri Fellow (2015), and a 2018 Art OMI Fellow.
Ibrahim has won the BBC African Performance Prize and the ANA Plateau/Amatu Braide Prize for Prose. Ibrahim was the recipient of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award. In 2014 he was selected for the Africa39 list of writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature, and was included in the anthology Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara
His first novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms, was published in 2015. The novel was shortlisted in September 2016 for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, Africa’s largest literary prize. Where he was announced as the winner of the $100,000 prize.
Ibrahim is an arts editor at Daily Trust newspaper and news editor of the Sunday Trust. Ibrahim’s reporting from North-East Nigeria has won particular critical acclaim.