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African Lives: An Anthology of Memoirs and Autobiographies

Geoff Wisner, editor
African Lives: An Anthology of Memoirs and Autobiographies
ISBN: 978-1-58826-862-4
ISBN: 978-1-58826-887-7
2013/401 pages/LC: 2012044240
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"Wisner has collected an impressive range of life writing from across Africa— the first anthology of its kind."—Jennifer Upton, Wasafiri

"Wisner ensures that the continent's multi-hyphenated rainbow of nonfiction writing, old and new, at all edges of the continental compass gets [the] chance [to be heard]."—Todd Steven Burroughs,

"An amazing anthology—a cacophony of African voices in splendid diversity as vast as the continent itself.” —Adele Newson-Horst, World Literature Today

"This anthology will appeal to anyone who has an interest in African literature and history.... All academic audiences and general readers."—Choice

"[A] remarkable book.... Full of memorable anecdotes and images right through the final entry."—Publishers Weekly

"African Lives thoughtfully identifies the voices and visions that have shaped a continent. By skillfully weaving these personal narratives into a coherent collection, Wisner has provided a compelling and accessible resource for understanding Africa's history makers"—Carl LeVan, American University


African Lives, a pioneering anthology of memoirs and autobiographical writings, lets the people of Africa speak for themselves—telling stories of struggle and achievement that have the authenticity of lived experience.

The anthology presents selections from the work of many of Africa's finest writers and most significant personalities from across the continent and spanning several centuries. Enhancing the material, Geoff Wisner's introduction and biographical notes provide important context for the selections and also highlight the challenges that African memoirs pose to the preconceptions of Western readers. The result is a book that is both an absorbing read and a valuable resource for courses on Africa.


Geoff Wisner is author of A Basket of Leaves: 99 Books That Capture the Spirit of Africa.


  • Editor's Introduction.
  • Algeria.
  • "Encounters"—Mohammed Dib.
  • The Writer (excerpt)—Yasmina Khadra.
  • Egypt.
  • A Border Passage (excerpt)—Leila Ahmed
  • A Daughter of Isis (excerpt)—Nawal El Saadawi.
  • Libya.
  • "The Rabbit Club"—Hisham Matar.
  • Morocco.
  • The Travels of Ibn Battuta (excerpt)—Ibn Battuta.
  • Look & Move On (excerpt)—Mohammed Mrabet.
  • The Fraternal Bond (excerpt)—Tahar Ben Jelloun.
  • Return to Childhood (excerpt)—Leila Abouzeid.
  • "So to Speak"—Laila Lalami
  • Sudan.
  • "Salamanca"—Jamal Mahjoub.
  • "A Cold But Fertile Ground"—Leila Aboulela
  • Burkina Faso.
  • Thomas Sankara Speaks (excerpt)—Thomas Sankara.
  • Cameroon.
  • Three Kilos of Coffee (excerpt)—Manu Dibango.
  • Ghana.
  • Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (excerpt)—Kwame Nkrumah.
  • A Far Cry from Plymouth Rock (excerpt)—Kwame Dawes.
  • Nigeria.
  • "My Father's English Friend" (excerpt)—Okey Ndibe.
  • "Ethics and Narrative: The Human and Other"—Chris Abani.
  • "African 'Authenticity' and the Biafran Experience"—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
  • "Reform, in the Name of the Father"—Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.
  • Senegal.
  • Ousmane Sembène: Interviews (excerpt)—ed. by Annett Busch and Max Annas.
  • Sierra Leone.
  • The Devil That Danced on the Water (excerpt)—Aminatta Forna.
  • Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Lumumba Speaks (excerpt)—Patrice Lumumba.
  • Republic of Congo.
  • My Country, Africa (excerpt)—Andrée Blouin.
  • "Hollywood, Pirated Videos, and Child Solders"—Emmanuel Dongala.
  • Rwanda.
  • Machete Season (excerpt)—Jean-Baptiste Murangira, as told to Jean Hatzfeld.
  • Ethiopia.
  • "New World Alphabet"—Dagmawi Woubshet.
  • Kenya.
  • Detained: A Writer's Diary (excerpt)—Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
  • One Day I Will Write About This Place (excerpt)—Binyavanga Wainaina.
  • Madagascar.
  • Childhood in Madagascar (excerpt)—Christian Dumoux.
  • Seychelles.
  • Paradise Raped (excerpt)—James R. Mancham.
  • Somalia.
  • "The Family House"—Nuruddin Farah.
  • Tanzania.
  • Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar (excerpt)—Emilie Ruete.
  • The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior (excerpt)—Tepilit Ole Saitoti.
  • Uganda.
  • Elizabeth of Toro (excerpt)—Elizabeth Nyabongo.
  • Botswana.
  • Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman (excerpt)—Nisa, as told to Marjorie Shostak.
  • A Woman Alone (excerpt)—Bessie Head.
  • Lesotho.
  • Singing Away the Hunger (excerpt)—Mpho 'M'atsepo Nthunya.
  • Namibia.
  • Never Follow the Wolf (excerpt)—Helao Shityuwete.
  • South Africa
  • Mafeking Diary (excerpt)—Sol T. Plaatje.
  • Let My People Go (excerpt)—Albert Luthuli.
  • 117 Days (excerpt)—Ruth First.
  • And Night Fell (excerpt)—Molefe Pheto.
  • I Write What I Like (excerpt)—Steve Biko.
  • Zambia.
  • Zambia Shall Be Free (excerpt)—Kenneth Kaunda.
  • Zimbabwe.
  • With the People (excerpt)—Maurice Nyagumbo.
  • Nkomo (excerpt)—Joshua Nkomo.
  • "A Letter to My Mother"—Chenjerai Hove.