Listen, Herstory

Some of you know that I have been going on a giant reading spree, and it’s been a really long time since I read for fun. In my four years of college, I think I only picked up 3 not-for-class books and I’m sure I didn’t even finish them! (Terrible, I know). Now, I have completely fallen in love with African literature! My goal is to read from as many parts of the continent as possible. One rule: I am reading women’s work only.

Ok. I must admit I’ve made one tiny exception so far, I’m reading some Ngugi wa Thiong’o who I couldn’t pass up simply because he is one of the biggest names in African lit. In The River Between, he deals with the female condition through female circumcision in traditional Gikuyu culture (great book so far). And there are so many other great authors besides him, I’m not discounting them at all, but I feel like I just need to bond with my sisters here for a minute. Also, I should say that even though I’m really interested in the genre, a lot of this is turning out to be ‘food for thought’ for my thesis which will have something to do with the black (African, colonized) woman’s body. Still trying to figure out the whole thesis thing!

I just finished reading So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba (Senegal). This is an extremely beautiful book. Considered a classic, she deals with the realities of marriage, tradition, loss, pain, forgiveness, family, and friendship through the story of a Senegalese widow. I am almost done reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie (Nigeria). It’s a super juicy contemporary novel about war and love, but I must admit I prefer the classic stuff much, much more.

Opening Spaces is a collection of short stories by contemporary African women writers, edited by Yvonne Vera (Zimbabwe) which I just started reading. The authors represent Mozambique, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritius, Mali, Ghana and several other countries. Vera prefaces the book by saying that “if speaking is still difficult to negotiate, then writing has created a free space for most women – much freer than speech. There is less interruption, less immediate and shocked reaction.” I think this is especially true for women across Africa who have been silenced socially, culturally and even politically for a long time – erased from history books and the memories of their own countries. Vera hopes that the book “proves that women from Africa have not been swallowed by history, that they too know how to swallow history.” There is absolutely no better way of putting it.

Africa’s womanhood is obviously very diverse. I am SO excited to keep reading and hearing the different voices and stories of women across the motherland. And I’m taking your recommendations!


~ by misswretched on August 2, 2008.

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