Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Introduction: Hegemony in the Fiction of Elizabeth Nunez

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Introduction: Hegemony in the Fiction of Elizabeth Nunez

Article excerpt

In her 2014 memoir Not For Everyday Use, Elizabeth Nunez writes that in completing her first novel When Rocks Dance, she: "found "a new found respect for my African past, for the beliefs of my ancestors denigrated by the British colonial masters. I came closer than I had ever been to knowing who I am, to knowing myself' (127). Each novel by Nunez promotes "a new found respect for... [an] African past" that was previously "denigrated by the British colonial masters." In my 2014 interview with Nunez she describes this denigration: "in the colonial education, Africa is barbaric. That's what you're taught. What the British say about Obeah and the Obeahman.why denigrate that and not denigrate what ancient Greeks said about going to the Oracle? Isn't going to the Oracle the same as going to the Obeah man?" (Fraser Interview). Nunez's novels collectively reverse this denigration of African-derived culture in the Caribbean. Her protagonists demonstrate some development in this specific manner. In the twenty first century, Elizabeth Nunez has innovated what development means for a protagonist, after writing one 2014 memoir and publishing nine novels from 1986 to 2016: When Rocks Dance (1986); Beyond the Limbo Silence (1998); Bruised Hibiscus (2000); Discretion (2002); Grace (2003); Prospero's Daughter (2006); Anna In Between (2010); Boundaries (2011); and Even In Paradise (2016). This special issue is dedicated to the fiction of Elizabeth Nunez. Each of these six critical articles within this special issue takes a closer look at her fiction and how she writes hegemony. This introduction will, in conjunction, highlight her historical significance as a novelist and identify the overarching themes of her work.

Redefining Development

The first most glaring theme of Nunez's work is her redefining development according to what Black psychologist Kobi K.K. Kambon has called an "African worldview" which is defined as a view of the world that "defines human nature relations as interdependent and inseparable" (Kambon 132). This contrasts with the European worldview that Kambon writes is "defined by the basic values of materialism, control, aggression and linear-ordinal ranking conflict and opposition dichotomy" (131). What uniquely defines Nunez's protagonists is that they seek development according to an African worldview. Her protagonists demonstrate "a new found respect for their African past." Nunez defines development according to this worldview.

The protagonist Marina Heathrow in When Rocks Dance, the daughter of a Trinidadian cocoa planter and an African mother demonstrates development when she learns that the African-derived Caribbean religion of Obeah should not be used for personal material gain. Sara Edgehill, the protagonist of Beyond the Limbo Silence, who is the daughter of an upper class Trinidadian family and a student at a Wisconsin Catholic college, demonstrates development when she applies the lessons from her mother and her father about the dangers of gifts from U.S. imperialists and, through Obeah, takes control of her own reproductive health.

Rosa Appleton, a protagonist in Bruised Hibiscus who is daughter of a wealthy planter, demonstrates development by relying on the Obeahwoman her mother once scorned, to sacrifice her life and help her friend Zuela realize an independence she never had. Oufoula Sindede, the protagonist in Discretion demonstrates his development when he decides that, unlike his role as a diplomat from Africa in hiding ugly truths of colonial dependence, chooses not to hide his feelings for his foreign love Marguerite who reveals the fetters to and the freedom from his traditional African beliefs.

In Grace, literature professor Justin Peters demonstrates development when he discovers the key to saving his marriage will not be adhering to any Western standards of manhood, nor literary theory, but by completely putting himself in the position of his wife Sally and seeing himself as, if not more, confined by Western society's gender norms. …

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