The Abandoned Baobab: The Autobiography of a Senegalese Woman

Front Cover
University of Virginia Press, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 180 pages
1 Review

The subject of intense admiration--and not a little shock, when it was first published-- The Abandoned Baobab has consistently captivated readers ever since. The book has been translated into numerous languages and was chosen by QBR Black Book Review as one of Africa’s 100 best books of the twentieth century. No African woman had ever been so frank, in an autobiography, or written so poignantly, about the intimate details of her life--a distinction that, more than two decades later, still holds true.

Abandoned by her mother and sent to live with relatives in Dakar, the author tells of being educated in the French colonial school system, where she comes gradually to feel alienated from her family and Muslim upbringing, growing enamored with the West. Academic success gives her the opportunity to study in Belgium, which she looks upon as a "promised land." There she is objectified as an exotic creature, however, and she descends into promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse, and, eventually, prostitution. (It was out of concern on her editor’s part about her candor that the author used the pseudonym Ken Bugul, the Wolof phrase for "the person no one wants.") Her return to Senegal, which concludes the book, presents her with a past she cannot reenter, a painful but necessary realization as she begins to create a new life there.

As Norman Rush wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "One comes away from The Abandoned Baobab reluctant to take leave of a brave, sympathetic, and resilient woman." Despite its unflinching look at our darkest impulses, and at the stark facts of being a colonized African, the book is ultimately inspirational, for it exposes us to a remarkable sensibility and a hard-won understanding of one’s place in the world.

CARAF Books: Caribbean and African Literature Translated from French


What people are saying - Write a review

The abandoned baobab: the autobiography of a Senegalese woman

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Using a pseudonym meaning "the person no one wants,'' a Senegalese woman writes a vivid, painful account of her childhood under French colonialism and escape as a student, at 20, to Belgium. Abandoned ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mahallett - LibraryThing

500 great books by women don't know what to say about this. every reading after the first, i picked it up with a sigh. Read full review


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2008)

Ken Bugul is the pen name of Mariètou M’Baye. She is also the author of five subsequent books, among them Riwan ou le chemin de sable (Riwan or the Sandy Track), for which she received the Grand prix littéraire de l’Afrique noire. She is former head of the African region section of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Bibliographic information