Academic journal article African Studies Review

Critical Essays on Bessie Head

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Critical Essays on Bessie Head

Article excerpt

Maxine Sample, ed. Critical Essays on Bessie Head. Westport, Conn.; London: Praeger Publishers, 2003. Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies, No. 205. xii + 150 pp. Index. $61.00. Cloth.

Critically hailed as one of the brightest voices in African literature at the time of her death in 1986, Bessie Head and her oeuvre have remained the subject of ongoing scholarly discussion to this day. Head was not only a fine writer but she also came to literary prominence at a time and place of great significance in the history of southern Africa. Born of the union of a white woman and a black man in racially segregated South Africa, raised in a foster home and then in an Anglican mission school "for Coloured girls," Bessie Head's earliest years were fraught with uncertainty and the unrelenting reinforcement of a fragmented identity within a divided nation. When she immigrated to Botswana in 1966 on a one-way exit visa, "a single mother without employment, passport, or a place to call home" (5), Head embarked on a harrowing journey of statelessness, loneliness, poverty, and at times mental illness. For thirteen years the Botswana government refused to grant her citizenship while, at the same time, she was rapidly becoming the nation's best-known, most celebrated writer. As her publications brought recognition and some long-sought relief from financial worry, Head's perseverance, single-minded vision, and creativity allowed her to claim a stable, integrated personal and professional identity within a shifting and often hostile environment.

One of the newer additions to the already impressive body of scholarship on Bessie Head's life and work, Critical Essays on Bessie Head is a nicely balanced set of eight studies. The volume's editor, Maxine Sample, provides a brief introduction and two abbreviated but informative biographical and bibliographical pieces that bracket the other contributions, as well as a third essay on the novel When Rain Clouds Gather. Stylistically and methodologically, the essays vary in their density of theoretical discourse and in their complementary reliance on more literal historical approaches. The balance works well, alternating some deep textual and theoretical readings with some finely researched pieces that illuminate little known areas of Bessie Head's life and influences. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.