Sometimes referred to as the mother of African Literature, Florence Nwazuruahu Nkiru Nwapa has more than twenty book titles to her name. These include novels, novellas, short stories and children books. Flora Nwapa was born in Oguta in Imo State, on January 13, 1931, and earned a degree and a diploma from Universities of Ibadan and Edinburgh, Scotland respectively. She taught in Calabar and Enugu and also held political appointments with the defunct East Central State. Nwapa who is the first female published author in Africa died in 1993 at the age of 62.
Five Must-Read Books of Flora Nwapa
This is Nwapa’s most famous novel. Published in 1966, it is viewed by some critics as the book that launched feminism in the continent. Evidently, Kenyan Writer Grace Ogot declared Efuru as ”one of the few [novels] that portrays vividly the woman’s world, giving only peripheral treatment to the affairs of men.” While the book had mixed reviews, its merit has remained to this day.
Grab the novel today if you haven’t and follow the story of Efuru, an independent, affluent woman whose success in trade was consistently countered by misfortunes at home. You will encounter a hard time finding a book that reveals the day-to-day life of the trading culture of the Igbos in the colonial era. Nwapa’s brilliant depiction of the themes of betrayal and sacrifice added to the merits of the novel.
Even if you have read the novel before, the painfully enchanting character of Efuru and the funny dialogues are some takeaways you would love to revisit.
2, One is Enough
This book is a medium-sized novel at 154 pages. Published in 1981, the novel is set in Lagos just after the war. It is one novel that captures the survival struggles of the Biafran people who came to Lagos in droves to make some meaning out of life, but who must prove their Nigerianness in the process. The novel follows the life of Amaka who is unable to bear children much to the chagrin of her mother-in-law. It was that era in Nigeria when infertility was blamed solely on the woman and women get called all sort of names for that.
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While Amaka’s home doesn’t attract a ton of jealousies, her bank account says otherwise. In her pursuit of naira, Amaka lowers her moral lever. An alhaji here, a Catholic priest there, One is Enough is one novel you should read. One novel you might regret you didn’t read sooner.
3, Never Again
Never Again, published in 1975 is a short novel. At eighty-five pages, it is one novel you can read in one long sitting (if you put your phone on flight mode that is). The novel is Flora Nwapa’s Biafran War Novel. It follows the story of a family caught in the war and accounts their battles for survival. The novel is narrated by Kate, a prosperous Nigerian woman who is hit by the reality and dangers of war.
Get the novel today and join Kate and family in their travails cutting across Port Harcourt, Enugu, Onitsha and the village of Ugwuta. The novel will draw you in. It is that captivating.
4, Women are Different
Women are different is a masterpiece on the struggles women face in Nigeria. Published by Tana Press in 1986, the novel chronicles the lives of three women, Dora, Agnes and Rose from their schooldays in 1945 up to the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War. Failed exams, forced marriage, divorce, AWOL partners, jilted lovers, and heartbreak are some of the battles these women faced. They won some, they lost a handful.
There is success somewhere in the mix for the protagonists but the story was written in the time (different from now?) when the success of women is judged and valued on the strength of their achievement in their matrimonial homes.
Women are Different is the novel that stamps Nwapa’s name on the list of writers with the ability to grabble with multi-faucet characterization and eras, an endeavour she undertook with class. Read this novel today.
5, Cassava Songs and Rice Songs
This is Flora Nwapa’s only book of poetry. You probably didn’t know that Nwapa wrote poetry. She did write poems and they have considerable merit. Take the titular poem “Cassava Song” for instance and be the judge:
We thank God Almighty
For giving us cassava.
We hail thee, cassava,
The great cassava.
You grow in poor soils
You grow in rich soils
You grow in gardens
You grow on farms.
You are easy to plant
Children can plant you
Women can plant you
Everybody can plant you.
We must sing for you
Great cassava, we must sing
We must not forget
Thee, the great one.
You may want to find the book and read up the other poems.
Other Efuru books you may add to your cart include the novel Idu and the short story collections Wives at War and Other Stories and This is Lagos and Other Stories.