"A very important contribution to the field by an African scholar with a thorough, empathetic command of the field of African feminine writing in French."--Christiane Makward, Penn State University
"A work of quality. . . . This first major study of fiction and nonfiction prose by Francophone African women is a significant work of criticism in the study of African literature."--Maxine Montgomery, Florida State University
French-speaking African women traditionally expressed their creativity through oral storytelling. Previously silent in print, today they also speak through the written word, and their stories constitute one of the most significant recent developments in African literature.
Irène Assiba d'Almeida dates this emerging phenomenon to 1969, the year Kuoh-Moukouri's Rencontres essentielles was published. A few more books by women were published in the '70s, followed by a creative explosion in the '80 that d'Almeida describes as a militant feminist appropriation of the written word. D'Almeida's book, the first single-author critical study in English of literary expression by Francophone African women, examines novels and autobiographies by nine new and established writers, all published since 1975. She finds that writing has liberated Francophone African women. They use it to critique the patriarchal order, to champion the cause of women and the community, and to preserve positive aspects of tradition.
D'Almeida divides her analysis into sections on three aspects of literary production. The first deals with autobiography and begins with A Dakar Childhood, by Nafissatou Diallo, the first Francophone African woman to write her own life history. The section also examines The Abandoned Baobab, by Ken Bugul, a book that broke sexual taboos, and My Country, Africa, by Andrée Blouin.
The second section looks at women and the family, including problems related to "compulsory" motherhood. It discusses Your Name Will Be Tanga, by Calixthe Beyala, Cries and Fury of Women, by Angèle Rawiri (both published only in French), and Scarlet Song, by Mariama Bâ.
The third section, "W/Riting Change: Women as Social Critics," discusses the ways female novelists link problems that affect women's lives to those affecting society at large. It examines works in French by Werewere Liking, Aminata Sow Fall, and Véronique Tadjo.
Irène Assiba d'Almeida is associate professor of French and a member of the comparative literature and the women's studies faculties at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She was born in Dakar, Senegal, and grew up in Benin, West Africa. She has academic degrees from three continents (Africa, Europe, and North America) and is the author of articles on African literature, of literary translations, and of published poetry.