So Long a Letter: Finding Self and Independence in Africa. - The Western Journal of Black Studies

So Long a Letter: Finding Self and Independence in Africa.

By The Western Journal of Black Studies

  • Release Date - Published: 2004-06-22
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: The Western Journal of Black Studies
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So Long a Letter: Finding Self and Independence in Africa. The Western Journal of Black Studies read online review & book description:

Introduction The past, the present, and the future; the colonizer and the colonized; the master and the subservient; the dependent and the revolutionary; the lies and the truths: all form an intricate web-work that comprises the history of Africa, a history still evolving, still shaking itself from the falsehoods attached to it and the fetters used for its oppression. Mariama Ba's So Long A Letter presents an allegory of that journey from colonization to independence by using the fictional predicament of women as a parallel to that journey. While many critics of Mariama Ba's So Long A Letter, including Laura Dubek and Betty Taylor Thompson focus on its presentation of African feminism, and critics such as Obioma Nnaemeka emphasize a move away from the binary constructs of the novel, they seem almost to ignore the idea that while So Long A Letter does indeed provide an example of "the importance of female friendship to a woman's survival" (Dubek, 2000, p. 200), the text also very potently exhibits that "close relationship between the opposition of races [the colonizer to the colonized] and the opposition of the sexes: [that] the Black seems [...] the female race" (Miller, "Dis-figuring,"1985, p. 244). (While this essay does focus upon the predicament of the fictional female characters in the text, and this author does have a full awareness of Chandra Talpade Mohanty's arguments regarding North American and Western feminism's impositions upon African feminism, this essay does not actually concern itself with either feminism or with all African women. Rather, it focuses only on the progression of the fictional women in So Long A Letter as that movement parallels the path of colonization to independence in Africa.) That "shapeless, nonclass--[both Blacks and Black women]--who cannot represent themselves but must be represented" (p. 229) finds representation in this novel. Simultaneously, as the novel conveys the shift from colonization to independence, it showcases the stages of a once-colonized writer coming into her own writing. As Frantz Fanon asserts in The Wretched of the Earth, the colonized writer must by necessity pass through several stages, including assimilation with Western literature, the recalling of the past and his/her own identity, and the creation of a revolutionary literature that awakens its people (1963, pp. 222-223). Mariama Ba's protagonist, Ramatoulaye advances through these stages, and the novel becomes the product which crystalizes not only that process, but also its results. Mariama Ba's So Long A Letter consciously does what Fanon labels, "us[ing] the past with the retention of opening the future, as an invitation to action and a basis for hope" (p. 232). While So Long A Letter focusses specifically on Senegalese society and on the Islamic patriarchy that controls women's lives, by extension, it also makes a statement about the movement from colonization to independence that all of Africa has faced because of imperialism.

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