Books et al

3 Books That Contextualize Mental Health in the African Setting

Mental health is currently all the rage. A hot topic of discussion in all arenas, it rings true with the pressures of the 21st Century.

For those with an African background, the portrayal of mental health is often disconnected from the realities we face. It is often said that art imitates life, and so literature is doing exactly that. In my most recent reading, I have three texts that well encapsulate the African experience of mental health; these books offer an alternative to what Western pop culture describes, portrays and relays it to be.

Here are three texts that you should definitely delve into:

1.Biko Zulu – “Drunk”

This Kenyan creative writer and published author has a knack for describing Kenyan-isms. And with a growing population, and troubled middle class in Kenya, Zulu tackles addiction and depression with ease. The book dubbed ‘Drunk’ is funny, clever and more importantly relatable for the African reader.

Set in Kenya’s bustling capital; the upward strokes and downward draws of dating, career management and general city melee consume the main character. This book is definitely worth a first and second read. You can also gift it to several friends as I have; they will not be disappointed.

Zulu’s second publication “Thursday” is also available for purchase.

2. Alain Mabanckou –  “Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty”

Congolese-born Alain is gifted. Not only for how he structures his stories like a rollercoaster, but more importantly for me, for how he bottles and packages all things African into a platter of wordy delights. As a reader, if you are craving consuming a text that screams “innately African”, Alain will always have something for you.

In this text, the main character a young pubescent boy strikes a friendship with the village madman. In most African communities, the saying “every village has its mad man” rings true and yet in this title Alain explores that anecdote much further; much deeper than one would imagine. His take on schizophrenia, poverty and African life is such a beautiful offering.

Alain Mabanckou tu don de Dieu!

His book, “African Psycho” is also a great read.

3. Akwaeke Emezi – “Freshwater”

The highly feted book made headlines, and remains a point of conversation. Now a famed novelist, Akwaeke is of Nigerian and Tamil descent and shares a heart-wrenching story that leaves readers on the edge of their seats. The narration acknowledges various aspects of being, expressions of selves and a troubling yet bundled together scheme to manage it all.

This text was Akwaeke’s big debut, and she has written 7 books including her most recent release “You Made a  Fool of Death with Your Beauty.”

Let’s connect in the comment section. What are you reading?