Recommended Reading

Sierra Leonean Non-Fiction

A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone

Lansana Gberie


This is the best account of Sierra Leone’s disastrous civil war, written by a Sierra Leonean journalist. It is particularly valued as a piece written by an African amidst numerous accounts of the war by Westerners.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Ishmael Beah

This is the heart wrenching tale of a child soldier in the RUF during Sierra Leone’s civil war. The memoir describes how young boys were brainwashed by RUF leaders to perform unspeakable acts of murder, rape, and torture. There is some debate as to whether this book is a true memoir or fictionalized memoir.


Green Oranges on Lion Mountain

Emily Joy


This is the somewhat lighthearted account of a young Scottish surgeon’s experiences practicing a very primitive form of medicine in Mende country. Her work in Sierra Leone is cut short by the beginning of the civil war.

The Devil That Danced on Water

Aminatta Forna

Written by a diasporic Sierra Leonean woman, Forna uses memoir/historical fiction to uncover the reasons and actions leading to her politician father’s death in Sierra Leone as post-colonial democracy shifted toward dictatorship.

West African Fiction

Anthills of the Savannah

Chinua Achebe


Written almost thirty years (1987) after Things Fall Apart, this novel’s focus is on the corruption of the governing elites in newly independent African countries.

Half of a Yellow Sun

Chimamanda Adichie


A hauntingly beautiful account of the struggle for an independent Biafra in Nigeria demonstrates the loving relationships that endure through a tumultuous decade. The books appropriately complicates the intersections of colonialism, class, and ethnicity.

Purple Hibiscus

Chimamanda Adichie


The first novel of a talented Nigerian writer, this work describes the tensions in one African family between Western values and African tribal values.

Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe


This is one of the great novels of the twentieth century because of its consistently African viewpoint and its marvelous depiction of African village life in Nigeria prior to the arrival of the British colonists. It also describes the early encounters between British officials and local Africans, all seen from an African viewpoint.

Development Readings

Development as Freedom

Amartya Sen


Winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics, Sen promotes development as a means and end for political freedom. He focuses on India and China yet his interjection of morality and ethics into economic development is extremely refreshing. With h5 promotion for human-based development, Sen offers a unique, thought-provoking analysis of development.

However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph

Aimee Molloy

Molloy tells the unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan, an NGO and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa. This moving biography details Melching’s beginnings at the University of Dakar and follows her journey of 40 years in Africa, where she became a social entrepreneur and one of humanity’s strongest voices for the rights of girls and women.

The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good

William Easterly


A former World Bank economist cites international development’s top-down approach without consultation with poor as the fundamental cause for aid ineffectiveness. A scathing review of the actions of organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Easterly asks readers to look critically at international development and globalization.

Whose Development? An Ethnography of Aid

Emma Crewe & Elizabeth Harrison

This piece builds on recent work in its examination of the evolution and persistence of a number of key ideas about gender, technology and race. It explores how these are rooted in both material practices and ideologies, notably the Enlightenment and colonialism, but goes a step further than previous studies which focused primarily than previous studies which focused primarily on the developers themselves. Their fascinating study shows how a simple dichotomy between “us,” the developers, and “them,” the victims of development, displaying how the processes involved have been misconstrued.