Heinemann African Writers Series

Heinemann has published professional resources for teachers for more than four decades. Starting in 1962, Heinemann Publishing debuted its African Writers Series with Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart. Since its inception, the series has presented notable works of African literature to a global audience. This collection features such groundbreaking authors as Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Ferdinand Oyono, Bessie Head, and more.

Publication year 1967Genre Novel, FictionTags Historical Fiction, Heinemann African Writers, History: African

Published in 1967 by Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (who also published under the name James Ngugi), A Grain of Wheat takes place in Kenya on the brink of its Uhuru (independence from British colonial rule) in December 1963. The novel considers the effects of British rule on several residents of the fictional village of Thabai, many of whom suffered enormously after the real life rebellion by the Mau Mau, or the Kenya Land and... Read A Grain of Wheat Summary

Publication year 1966Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: RevengeTags Satire, Modern Classic Fiction, Politics / Government, Heinemann African Writers

A Man of the People, by Chinua Achebe, is a novel that chronicles political unrest in an African nation that only recently gained its independence from Britain. The novel opens with the narrator, Odili Samalu, awaiting the arrival of Minister Nanga, also known as Chief Nanga, at Anata Grammar School, where Odili teaches. The villagers are excited to see Nanga, but Odili is not, for he thinks little of Nanga and his political methods, which... Read A Man of the People Summary

Publication year 1964Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FathersTags Heinemann African Writers, African Literature, History: African

Chinua Achebe’s 1964 novel Arrow of God portrays an Ibo leader as he confronts the British administrators and missionaries in his town. The text, Achebe’s third novel, is part of a series of books called The African Trilogy. Arrow of God won the first ever Jock Campbell/New Statesman prize for African Literature.The novel focuses on Ezeulu, who is the High Priest of Ulu. Ulu is the most important deity in the town of Umuaro, and... Read Arrow of God Summary

Publication year 1972Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: War, Society: ColonialismTags Heinemann African Writers, African Literature

Publication year 1960Genre Novel, FictionTags Heinemann African Writers

The novel God’s Bits of Wood, by Ousmane Sembène, is based on actual events surrounding the Senegalese railway workers strike of 1947 and depicts the impact of the poverty and racism endured by the railway workers and their families. The book is set in both Senegal and Mali. Oppressed by the French colonial railway administrators, the railway workers union seeks to obtain family allowances and pension benefits. The lives of various extended families residing in... Read God's Bits Of Wood Summary

Publication year 1956Genre Novel, FictionTags Heinemann African Writers, African Literature

Houseboy (1956) is a riveting narrative by Ferdinand Oyono. Though shorter in length than most novels, Houseboy addresses the weighty topic of colonization and its effects on the native population of Cameroon. More specifically, Oyono’s story delves into the life of Toundi Ondoua, a young rural African man whose life is changed when he decides to shrug off his African village and enter the world of white Europeans in the city of Dangan. What transpires... Read Houseboy Summary

Publication year 1971Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Hate & AngerTags Heinemann African Writers, African Literature

In Maru (1971), author Bessie Head confronts deeply held prejudice toward the Masarwa people of Botswana. Considered sub-human by most citizens of Botswana, the Masarwa people pursue an untenable and desperate existence within Botswana society. Living off the land, the Masarwa wander from place to place in the bush, scavenging food and water in a subsistence lifestyle. The name “Masarwa” itself is an insult, being roughly equivalent to the term “nigger” in English (6).Margaret’s Masarwa... Read Maru Summary

Publication year 1947Genre Novel, FictionThemes Natural World: Place, Society: War, Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: LoveTags African Literature, Heinemann African Writers, Historical Fiction

Midaq Alley (1947) is a historical realist novel by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, the 1988 Nobel Prize laureate in Literature. In this work, Mahfouz addresses the changes taking place in Egyptian society of the 1940s. The book tells the story of a group of neighbors living in Midaq Alley, a bustling market street, in the poor quarter of Cairo’s historic city center. The story is set at the end of World War II, during Britain’s... Read Midaq Alley Summary

Publication year 1960Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Relationships: Family, Society: Class, Society: Colonialism, Society: CommunityTags Heinemann African Writers, African Literature, Historical Fiction, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

No Longer At Ease (1960) is a novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. The story takes place in the years prior to Nigeria’s independence from the British Empire and focuses on Obi Okonkwo. Obi is a young Nigerian man who returns home after studying English in Britain and finds a job in the civil service. He finds himself situated within the conflict between African and Western culture, raising questions about his identity and worldview. No... Read No Longer at Ease Summary

Publication year 1966Genre Novel, FictionTags Heinemann African Writers

Season of Migration to the North is a 1966 novel by Sudanese author Tayeb Salih, first translated to English in 1969. It has been voted the “Most Important Arab Novel of the 20th century” by a panel of experts. It begins when the unnamed narrator returns from his schooling in London to his native village, Wad Hamid. There, he meets a stranger, Mustafa Sa’eed, who has settled in the village and married Hosna Mahmoud, the... Read Season of Migration to the North Summary

Publication year 1979Genre Novel, FictionTags History: African , Auto/Biographical Fiction, Gender / Feminism, African Literature, Heinemann African Writers

So Long A Letter follows the story of two women from Senegal, Ramatoulaye and Aissatou. They are childhood friends whose paths diverge in adulthood when Aissatou immigrates to America, leaving Ramatoulaye behind in Senegal. The novel is told in the epistolary style—that is, it is structured as a very long letter, written by Ramatoulaye to her friend, recounting the latest events in her life and reminiscing about their shared childhood and adolescence.The novel opens as... Read So Long a Letter Summary

Publication year 1969Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags Heinemann African Writers, Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction, Satire, Poverty, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, published in 1968, is a debut novel by Ayi Kwei Armah, one of the most noteworthy writers of postcolonial Ghana. Armah was born in Takoradi, Ghana, in 1939. He was educated at schools in Ghana and private institutions in America, including Harvard University. He has also worked as a translator, scriptwriter, and a university lecturer.The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born focuses on life in post-independence Ghana and... Read The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born Summary

Publication year 1950Genre Novel, FictionTags Heinemann African Writers

The Grass is Singing is a powerful novel that explores several poignant topics, including human relationships, power struggles, and the effects of racism. The novel is set in Southern Rhodesia (present-day South Africa) and explores the lives of its inhabitants during white rules in the county. The novel was Lessing’s debut novel and helped to propel her to the literary success. Her treatment of desire, drive, and need regarding individuals, communities and even nations is... Read The Grass is Singing Summary

Publication year 1958Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Society: ColonialismTags Colonialism / Postcolonialism, African Literature, History: African , Heinemann African Writers

Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, is Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe’s first novel. Simultaneously portraying the traditions and beliefs of Nigerian Ibo culture and engaging with the narrative of European colonialism in Africa, Things Fall Apart uses one man’s story to speak for many.Achebe’s plot centers on Okonkwo, a passionate man focused on reaching the apex of masculine virtue in his home village, Umuofia. As a child, Okonkwo notices his father’s “feminine” and dishonorable behaviors:... Read Things Fall Apart Summary

Publication year 1968Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: MarriageTags African Literature, Heinemann African Writers

In the opening pages of Bessie Head’s novel When Rain Clouds Gather, Makhaya Maseko, an educated young man, is preparing to cross the border that separates South Africa from Botswana. Makhaya is disillusioned with South African society, which is premised on discrimination against black men such as him. He sets out at night, successfully evades border patrols, and arrives in Botswana. There, he registers with the authorities and meets a welcoming companion, an old man... Read When Rain Clouds Gather Summary

Publication year 1973Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Identity: Masculinity, Society: ColonialismTags Heinemann African Writers, Satire, Realistic Fiction, Allegory / Fable / Parable, Class, History: African , Politics / Government, Love / Sexuality, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Xala: A Novel was written by the Senegalese writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembène. The satirical work was originally published in France in 1974 and released in the United States in 1976. In 1975, it was adapted into a film directed by Sembène. The postcolonial novel deals with the aftermath of Senegal’s formal independence from France on August 20, 1960—two years after the country had become a republic. Senegal celebrates its Independence Day on April 4... Read Xala Summary