Don't worry, I'm not going to list all the books I think you should read! That would be way too many!! Here are some of my favorites and the ones I think are crucial for gaining an understanding into parts of Africa.
The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith (2005)
Individuals seeking the best basic understanding of where the continent of Africa has come along in its historic journey from colonialism to independence to modern-day, The Fate of Africa fulfills this challenge. While providing a broad overview of different regions in the beginning chapters, Meredith also relates to each country specifically towards the closing chapters. Thus, individuals are able to gain both regional and national awareness of different countries on the continent. The political and societal struggles of these countries is dictated thoroughly and accurately, but Meredith also provides chapters showing the positive advancements made by the African people. This holistic and balanced understanding of the history of Africa gives individuals the best education regarding this continent.
Power Lines by Jason Carter (2002)
Carter shows readers the scars left behind from racism and hatred and reveals the strengths of community among the South African people. This book opened my eyes to the idea of Ubuntu, or “I am we,” and how it governs the country. Ubuntu translates into the concept of solidarity and how to apply this in becoming a nonviolent leader and a part of the solution to wars. Though this book provoked me to look further into African issues and sparked an interest to study abroad to South Africa, I felt as though the book was a little biased towards the American interest and opinion and also did not provide enough raw imagery to show the depth of the issues facing South Africa.A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (2007)
Unafraid to exhibit his vulnerability, Beah shows the gross injustices of war that even a child had to employ, had to endure, and had to survive to tell his story as a recovered former child soldier. Readers cannot escape Beah’s emotional journey through his descriptive and unrefined language. Beah gives a personal and real face to the issue of child soldiers, while also providing hope that child soldiers can receive therapy and accomplish tremendous goals. Beah, too, shows how war cannot be broken down into simply good versus bad, or victim and perpetrator because children have been forcibly brought into the war and, in the end, everyone is a victim of war. This example broadens the definition of war and also gives meaning to the term “voluntary recruitment.”New News Out of Africa (2006)
This book takes a balanced view of some of the problems African nations face, including South Africa, and tries to explain the positive advancements taking place on the continent. Hunter-Gault emphasized how the more pessimistic Western view of Africa has a debilitating effect on the Western actions taken in and responses received in Africa. Not wanting to provide too much detail to one certain area of Africa, Hunter-Gault gives lessons on the wars that have persisted all throughout Africa to provide readers with the most honest and balanced view of the continent. This more unbiased view contrasts other books I have read that have more of a Western-skewed viewpoint, as seen in Jason Carter’s Power Lines.Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement That Changed America by Gaillard Frye (2004)
This book recounts all the famous and, to many, unknown heroes and foot soldiers of the civil rights movement. The book delves into the historical progress of the civil rights movement, but also the portraits of these many individuals who aided the progress towards racial equality. The racial inequality that existed in the 1960s and beforehand can still be applied to race issues of today, and shows the connection the United States’ shares to many former and current slavery-ridden countries in Africa. While appearing to be the leader of justice, the United States must show its past mistakes and current damages from that era in history. The book provided an array of civil rights leaders, not solely focusing on Alabama, but the title suggest otherwise, which might confuse readers.Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa by Helen Epstein (2007)
As a first introduction into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Epstein does more than merely educate readers about the biological and societal devastation the disease causes. She shows humanitarians, activists, or simply people who want to make a difference in the world of AIDS prevention and elimination that there is no simple fix. Individuals cannot and should not have the persona that they can “save” Africa or even come near “fixing” the issue of AIDS because the disease deals not only with the biological ramifications, but also the cultural and societal underpinnings as well. Epstein gives understanding into how different African countries have battled, both successfully and unsuccessfully, the AIDS epidemic while also showing how Western organizations have impacted these fights. This book aided my progress in understanding another facet of war, but went beyond simple knowledge of AIDS and delved also into how Western countries and organizations have negatively affected the progress African countries have attempted to make towards minimizing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Epstein’s narrative-style helped me visualize certain individuals’ stories, but in certain parts of the book, she also tended to generalize entire parts of Africa under one assumption or bias, which forced me to become more alert to criticizing authors who appear reliable and legitimate.The Face of Human Rights edited by Walter Kalin, Lars Muller, and Judith Wyttenbach (2004)
Providing images of atrocities committed against people all across the world, The Face of Human Rights stays true to its name by showing the real faces and victims of human rights violations.Beyond providing information regarding human rights laws, charters, and conventions, this book carefully chooses contrasting images to highlight the inequity of the human race. This book provides a thorough understanding of what human rights entail and how they translate to real human beings.
Child Soldiers in Africa by Alcinda Honwana (2006)
Beyond the immense research and data collection, Honwana delves into the personal sphere with eyewitness interviews and accounts. The historical roots and the recent controversial discussion over child soldiers are coupled with the stories and reactions from children who have been through these devastating circumstances. Being informed is crucial, but first one must feel connected to the issue, and Honwana seeks to bring this global and, especially regional, issue to Africa, closer to home for readers. Like Beah, Honwana assisted in opening the definition of war to include child soldiers and to show the complexities and immense horrors of war.Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane (1986)
Mathabane sends readers on a journey to a place, hopefully, few have ever experienced or will ever experience in their lives: a life of poverty, a life of cruelty, and a life of inferiority. Mathabane describes what life in a township was like in apartheid South Africa and the steps he took to overcome the multitude of obstacles placed before him. His journey, like Beah’s, gives hope to leaders and activists searching for solutions to the horrors of war, but also teaches us how far we must all come in the fight for equality to prevail.Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela (1995)
The autobiography of one of the greatest non-violent and affluent leaders of Africa, and more specifically, one of the greatest Presidents of South Africa, Nelson Mandela delivers a powerful story of his journey. Who would have predicted a tribal black South African would attain such victories and advancements in his life with becoming a lawyer and also becoming the first black South African President after spending much of his life in prison. Mandela leaves no room for questions or clarification as he details his life thoroughly including his failure to accept the Indian struggle in to the black South African struggle at first and his personal struggles in his family and married life. Painting a true picture for what a leader full of humbleness and humility embodies, Mandela provides readers not only with an account of his life's works, but also a n outline to becoming an activist, and most importantly, an advocate for human rights among all people.
Darfur: A New History of a Long War by Julie Flint and Alex De Waal (2008)
Though many people now know of the horrific events occurring in Darfur, very few people know how this situation came to unfold. The history of the country, the players involved, and how the international community has responded to this conflict are crucial for understanding all the complexities facing Darfur. Throughout reading this book, it becomes clear that this conflict is more than just the government killing its people in a certain reason because of "ethnic reasons." In addition, this book shows how simplified African conflicts can appear to Western eyes and thus displays the importance of fully knowing an entire conflict from all angles before discussing or even advocating for a cause.
I Didn't Do It for You by Michela Wrong (2006)
Eritrea, which is located on the East coast of Africa, does not attract much attention from the West or really any part of the world. However, this country was incredibly important to so many players at different given points in time. Wrong presents the discrimination and superiority different groups have demonstrated against the Eritrean people from pre-colonialism all the way through their independence. I Didn't Do It For You allows individuals to understand how crucial genuine motives and partnership are in approaching African or any situation outside of their own country's issues.