Arms Akimbo: Africana Women in Contemporary Literature

By Janice Lee Liddell; Yakini Belinda Kemp | Go to book overview

11
The Politics of Exile Ama Ata Aidoo's Our Sister Killjoy

GAY WILENTZ

The term "politics of exile" calls to mind those sufferers who must leave their homeland for political reasons. But there is another aspect of the politics associated with exile--that of the so-called Third World colonial who seeks the benefits and opportunities in a European country perceived as culturally superior, thus avoiding the sociopolitical situation at home. Ama Ata Aidoo Our Sister Killjoy or Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint is a relentless attack on the notions of exile as relief from the societal constraints of national development and freedom to live in a suitable cultural environment for creativity. In this work, Aidoo questions certain prescribed theories of exile, including the reasons for exile--particularly among African men. The novel exposes a rarely heard viewpoint in literature in English--that of the African woman exile, Aidoo's protagonist Sissie, as the "eye" of her people, is a sojourner to the "civilized" world of the colonizers. Our Sister Killjoy, which reflects Aidoo's own travels abroad, was written partially in the United States; moreover, although it was published in 1979, first editions carry a 1966 copyright, closer to the time in which she was traveling. Although Aidoo experienced the supposed freedom of exile herself, her personalized prose/poem novel illustrates her commitment to rebuild her former colonized home and confront those who have forgotten their duty to their native land.

Most critical reactions to the novel have ranged, predictably, from negative responses to silence and nonrecognition.1 What has disturbed Aidoo most is not the negative criticism but the "unreception" of the novel--the refusal of many African critics to discuss it at all. In a speech,

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