5 Anticipated Books by African Authors, May 2024


May is a great month for novel debuts, apparently, as we have Ghostroots and The Incredible Dreams of Garba Dakaskus, from ‘Pemi Aguda and Umar Abubakar Sidi respectively.

‘Pemi Aguda has a host of awards under her belt, even winning the 2020 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Awards for her novel manuscript. Ghostroots though reimagined Lagos, in a selection of twelve modern stories on motherhood and street life. But it holds more. The other debut work is from award winning poet and pilot, Umar Abubakar Sidi. Sidi is best known as a poet but then has a few short stories out there. The Incredible Dreams of Garba Dakaskus is his first novel and like his two acclaimed poetry volumes, readers are in for a treat. Olumide Popoola’s Like Water Like Sea, which is her second full length novel, follows the story of Nia, and all she has to unravel on her road to self-discovery. Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s Lost Ark Dreaming wants you to keep in view the dangers of climate change in this narrative on climate fiction. And finally, we have Onyi Nwabineli returning with another page turner after Someday, Maybe (2022). Her new piece Allow Me to Introduce Myself, is one of hope.

Lost Ark Dreaming
by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Tordotcom)
Expected Release Date: May 21, 2024

Off the coast of West Africa, decades after the dangerous rise of the Atlantic Ocean, the region’s survivors live inside five partially submerged, kilometers-high towers originally created as a playground for the wealthy. Now the towers’ most affluent rule from their lofty perch at the top while the rest are crammed into the dark, fetid floors below sea level.

There are also those who were left for dead in the Atlantic, only to be reawakened by an ancient power, and who seek vengeance on those who offered them up to the waves.

Three lives within the towers are pulled to the fore of this conflict: Yekini, an earnest, mid-level rookie analyst; Tuoyo, an undersea mechanic mourning a tremendous loss; and Ngozi, an egotistical bureaucrat from the highest levels of governance. They will need to work together if there is to be any hope of a future that is worth living―for everyone.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself: A Novel
by Onyi Nwabineli (Graydon House)
Expected Release Date: May 28, 2024

Anuri Chinasa has had enough. And really, who can blame her? She was the unwilling star of her stepmother’s social media empire before “momfluencers” were even a thing. For years, Ophelia documented every birthday, every skinned knee, every milestone and meltdown for millions of strangers to fawn over and pick apart.

Now, at twenty-five, Anuri is desperate to put her way-too-public past behind her and start living on her own terms. But it’s not going so great. She can barely walk down the street without someone recognizing her, and the fraught relationship with her father has fallen apart. Then there’s her PhD application (still unfinished) and her drinking problem (still going strong). When every detail of her childhood was so intensely scrutinized, how can she tell what she really wants?

Still, Ophelia is never far away and has made it clear she won’t go down without a fight. With Noelle, Anuri’s five-year-old half sister now being forced down the same path, Anuri discovers she has a new mission in life…

To take back control of the family narrative.

Through biting wit and heartfelt introspection, this darkly humorous story dives deep into the deceptive allure of a picture-perfect existence, the overexposure of children in social media and the excitement of self-discovery.

Ghostroots: Stories
by ‘Pemi Aguda (W. W. Norton & Company)
Expected Release Date: May 7, 2024

A debut collection of stories set in a hauntingly reimagined Lagos where characters vie for freedom from ancestral ties.

In this beguiling collection of twelve imaginative stories set in Lagos, Nigeria, ’Pemi Aguda dramatizes the tension between our yearning to be individuals and the ways we are haunted by what came before.

In “Manifest,” a woman sees the ghost of her abusive mother in her daughter’s face. Shortly after, the daughter is overtaken by wicked and destructive impulses. In “Breastmilk,” a wife forgives her husband for his infidelity. Months later, when she is unable to produce milk for her newborn, she blames herself for failing to uphold her mother’s feminist values and doubts her fitness for motherhood. In “Things Boys Do,” a trio of fathers finds something unnatural and unnerving about their infant sons. As their lives rapidly fall to pieces, they begin to fear that their sons are the cause of their troubles. And in “24, Alhaji Williams Street,” a teenage boy lives in the shadow of a mysterious disease that’s killing the boys on his street.

These and other stories in Ghostroots map emotional and physical worlds that lay bare the forces of family, myth, tradition, gender, and modernity in Nigerian society. Powered by a deep empathy and glinting with humor, they announce a major new literary talent.

The Incredible Dreams of Garba Dakaskus
by Umar Abubakar Sidi (Masobe)
Expected Release Date: May 28, 2024

Umar Abubakar Sidi’s debut novel, ‘The Incredible Dreams of Garba Dakaskus,’ is a philosophical quest through time in search of a book with obscure origins that might offer the reader a divine glimpse behind the veil shrouding our plane of existence. Critics have likened it to the brilliance of Italo Calvino.

Like Water Like Sea
by Olumide Popoola (Cassava Republic Press)
Expected Release Date: May 28, 2024

Sometimes we swim, sometimes we float, other times we are drowning. It’s not always easy to know which is which.

It is the ten-year anniversary of her sister’s death, and Nia is grappling with her grief, and balancing the complicated relationships weaving through her life. There is smart and sexy Temi; Melvin, her teenage love; and her new yet intimate friendship with Rahul and Crystal. But looming large over everything is her mother SuSu, whose battle with bipolar disorder continues to cast a profound shadow over Nia.

Delving deep into the intricate tapestry of Nia’s life, Like Water Like Sea is a poignant tale of self-discovery and resilience, sexuality and motherhood, and falling apart to become truly whole.

Lake Adedamola is a poet, writer, and editor with Nantygreens, who's worked with several other literary blogs including Brittle Paper. He has, since 2018, served in various capacities on the Lagos International Poetry Festival, LIPFest, team.

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