Motherhood in African Literature

Mother’s Day is here and what better time to reflect on motherhood, the joy, beauty, challenges and its complexities. While motherhood is a shared experience, perspectives and stories that emerge from different cultures offer unique insights on this transformative journey. And that is where literature comes in. We’re putting a few books written by Africans your way that shed light on motherhood and provide a window to the African experience.

An Unusual Grief by Yewande Omotoso

An Unusual Grief answers the question, “How do you know your daughter when she’s dead?” through the life of Morayo who moves into her estranged daughter’s apartment to know her better. This poignant and introspective novel delves into the complex dynamics of motherhood and the grieving process. As Morayo reconciles with her grief and learns to navigate her role as both a daughter and a mother, the novel delves into the interplay between personal growth, self-discovery, and the profound influence of maternal figures.

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Men Don’t Cry by Faïza Guène, translated by Sarah Ardizzone

This award-winning book casts a gaze on the immigrant experience through an Algerian family in France. The family’s matriarch, Maman is a strong-willed and determined character central to the themes of masculinity in the coming-of-age of her son, Mourad. As a mother, she faces she navigates cultural clashes, societal expectations, and the desire to provide a better life for her children. Through Maman’s journey, readers are invited to reflect on the universal aspects of motherhood while also gaining insight into the specific challenges faced by immigrant mothers in navigating cultural and societal expectations. Guène perfectly captures, tone, style, and humour in this must-read novel!

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The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Reader favourite, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives offers a captivating account of polygamy in Nigeria and its impact on women and motherhood. The story revolves around Baba Segi and his four wives, each with their own secrets and desires. As they navigate their shared existence, motherhood becomes a central theme, exposing the complexities, rivalries, and sacrifices that come with being a mother in a polygamous household. Shoneyin’s narrative skilfully challenges stereotypes and provides a thought-provoking perspective on African motherhood.

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The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

One of the most widely read book by a Nigerian, The Joys of Motherhood follows the life of Nnu Ego, a woman determined to be a successful mother despite the challenges she faces. Emecheta captures a deeply moving portrayal of the sacrifices, hardships, and joys of motherhood, exploring the themes of identity, feminism, and the clash between tradition set in Nigeria.

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