So Long a Letter: Read It Because you get to peer into the birth of feminism for a Muslim woman in post-independence Senegal. The country won its independence from France in 1960 and Ba published this story some 20 years later. It took me a little bit to get into this story--mainly because I'd never read a book whose format was a simple, lengthy meandering letter. Ultimately, though, Ba won me over with her tender, thoughtful introspective look at the life of a cuckolded, then sister-wifed, then widowed, then independent and finally (maybe) free woman. I found myself rereading paragraphs as she bestowed poetry upon the mundane-seeming tasks of a housewife:
And it's always a bit of a thrill to learn about a culture from a native writer. You feel as if you are being let behind the curtain into an entirely new and different world. As Ba unveiled the intricacies involved with polygamy and death in West African Islam, I was enthralled by the deep layers of customs and requirements involved. The requirement that the secrets of a recently deceased man be laid out in the open was a notable example:
The mirasse commanded by the Koran requires that a dead person be stripped of his most intimate secrets; thus is exposed to others what was carefully concealed. These exposures crudely explain a man's life.
And it turns out that her husband had a quite a few secrets...but as the letter reveals...so did the author.
*One of my Reading Around the Continent books--the full list is here.
For further Study:
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