Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

I was supposed to read So Long a Letter for the Classic Feminist Literature challenge back in January, but the library didn't have any copies and it took me a while to get around to procuring one through Amazon's used booksellers. (Read: I was lazy, broke, and had a gigantic pile of library books to get through). Once I realized that the library didn't have a copy of God Dies by the Nile (June's selection) either, I decided to buy them both. I'm very glad that I did; So Long a Letter was excellent.

Taking the form of a (very long) letter from Ramatoulaye to Aissatou, a friend from school, So Long a Letter details the struggles that modern, educated women face in a slowly changing society. Ramatoulaye details her experiences following the death of her husband, who had betrayed her several years earlier by taking a second wife. Not only must she contend with his second wife's family's attempts at her property and see to the raising and educating of her numerous children, she must rebuff a number of attempts by her husband's friends to marry her. Throughout the letter, she reveals the extent to which entrenched patriarchy dominates her life, making freedom and self-determination very difficult. She also muses upon their husbands' choices to take second wives despite their earlier promises, reading them to be a calculated betrayal of their ideals.

Overall, an intriguing look into African feminism. I only wish I could have read it in French; this translation was a little wonky. 4 out of 5 stars.

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