Gender in African Women's Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference

Gender in African Women's Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference

Gender in African Women's Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference

Gender in African Women's Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference


"This is a cogent analysis of the complexities of gender in the work of nine contemporary Anglophone and Francophone novelists.... offers illuminating interpretations of worthy writers... " -- Multicultural Review

"This book reaffirms Bessie Head's remark that books are a tool, in this case a tool that allows readers to understand better the rich lives and the condition of African women. Excellent notes and a rich bibliography." -- Choice

"... a college-level analysis which will appeal to any interested in African studies and literature." -- The Bookwatch

This book applies gender as a category of analysis to the works of nine sub-Saharan women writers: Aidoo, B , Beyala, Dangarembga, Emecheta, Head, Liking, Tlali, and Zanga Tsogo. The author appropriates western feminist theories of gender in an African literary context, and in the process, she finds and names critical theory that is African, indigenous, self-determining, which she then melds with western feminist theory and comes out with an over-arching theory that enriches western, post-colonial and African critical perspectives.


I can trace when the seeds were sown for the writing of this book to as far back as when I attended an all-girl Catholic boarding secondary school, in my native Cameroon. I was in either Form One or Form Two at the time. That year, we were supposed to read Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, among other books. Our textbooks had been ordered (as they usually were then) from England, but the books were still at sea when the first term began in September. So one morning, during the literature period, the Reverend Sister brought an LP record and a record player to the classroom. We watched in silence as she proceeded to play the record for us. That was my first encounter with contemporary African written literature. I can still hear the voice, a deep, throaty, male voice that filled our silent classroom, vibrating through the walls: Okonkwo had just blown out the palm-oil lamp and lain down on his bamboo bed when he heard the ogene of the town-crier piercing the still night air. I was mesmerized by the words, by the voice. I can still remember thinking to myself, literature, African literature was coming to us from a record. Certainly, I could not have known then that Chaucer and Shakespeare were beginning to have rivals. I remember vividly how much I had hoped that I would one day write a story and instead of hearing this faceless voice reading it to me, I imagined my mother, though "illiterate" according to Western categorization, reading my story, propelling me into dreamland the same way I felt on that day. She is dead now. She died in the prime of her life, at the youthful age of forty-six, on August 15,1984.

When I completed Our Lady of Lourdes Secondary School and C.C.A.S.T. Bambili and proceeded to the University of Yaounde, the courses were flooded with male authors, mostly Western, some African/non-Western. Where were the women? I often wondered. Were there any women? besides the Brontës? the Austens? More seeds were thus planted at the University of Yaounde, and their roots grew deeper. I did my graduate research at Yaounde on orature, with emphasis on the representation of women in folktales. While a good majority of my classmates were furiously researching Soyinka, wa Thiong'o, Mongo Beti, I took a short leave of written literature and immersed myself in oral traditions, going to my home village of Beba, recording, transcribing, and translating folktales and lyrics. I was enjoying myself doing something different. Then I went to McGill University in Montreal and I could not pass up the chance to write another dissertation on women, but, this time, in written literature. I

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