The African coming of age story: African authors and moving beyond politics.

Last week I started reading the novella ‘Becoming Abigail’ by Chris Abani. The book is a great coming of age story looking at the life of a young Nigerian girl who struggles to know who she is. Named after her mother who died during child-birth and called Abigail, the story follows the younger Abigail and her troubled teen years.

The book has great reviews internationally so I was excited to read about coming of age from the perspective of an African author. Having studied British Literature and the different coming of age stories written from the view-point of young White, Asian and Black British people, I was keen to see how the storytelling would differ or be like that of the Western authors I had read. People are people and we all go through similar struggles so the type of story told was familiar: troubles knowing ones identity. However the language used and the flow of the sentences and tone was distinctly different. It is amazing how language (although all English) comes with many cultural undertones and definitions.

Sitting and reading the book I felt excited to be reading a story told from an African standpoint. If you are not a literature and cultural junkie you might struggle to understand my excitement but there is something refreshing about reading stories from other cultures.

I also began to think about how the book relates to me as a young African author. Although I am Zambian and each country in Africa comes with its own identity, it has to be said that there is overall community bond (however fragile) among the African community. I have written a novella and reading ‘Becoming Abigail’ was an encouragement for me because I now know there is a sister work out there. It is great to know there are African stories that are being written and the lives of black people being told in a way that is beyond politics. Simply life.



About Plantain Periodicals

Hello! Welcome to the Plantain Periodicals blogs. The name stems from the kitchen moments I had with my friends at university cooking plantain and planning our lives together. I have used this space as a window into my mind and the way I make sense of all my experiences through writing.This is where I share those conversations and moments that happen inside my head as a young woman growing up in 21st century London. Hopefully you'll be entertained and also learn a thing or two. My main blog ad: My literature blog: NMx
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4 Responses to The African coming of age story: African authors and moving beyond politics.

  1. trixycae says:

    I wrote a novel based on my experience of secondary school in Nigeria in the 90s and I was told by a few publishers that the story didn’t sound authentic. Why? Because my upbringing didn’t fit with what they thought schooling in an African country should be. Some friends who went to the same school (a Federal Government school, so certainly not a fancy school) read the story and said it reminded them of their school experiences so I was sure that even if my writing wasn’t good enough, the story sounded real. It is a shame that people expect drama related to politics, tribal or religious unrest before they can accept an African based story.

    • It is a shame that people put certain expectations and limitations on stories. I have always been excited by the fact that there are many stories (emphasis on the plural) and that as individuals we have the right to express our own opinions and paint our own pictures. I am glad you had the confidence to push on with your story and share it with friends and family. I would love to read it 🙂

  2. zendictive says:

    when I was nine, I was in Equador/Panama,(my father was in the air force) (I was born in Japan to american citizens) but the talk at school and around the base was how at 13-14 the boys in that country quit school and go to work, by 15 the girls are usually married. I thought, in five years I will be working, almost married and maybe even kids. (I am sure my father used this toll to have us act right) but we came to the United States by time I was ten. The first thing I realized was how ‘good’ Americans had it… because all the streets were paved ad they all had wooden doors. In central America, all roads are red dirt/clay and almost all the houses had sheets for doors (if they had that! I liked your take/ review and outlook at the world, diversity is each countries pride and yet we all do the same thing, work, eat and sleep and love etc… I enjoy your writing. (~_~)

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