Read So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ Free Online
Book Title: So Long a Letter|
The author of the book: Mariama Bâ
Edition: Heinemann Educational Books
Date of issue: June 28th 1989
ISBN 13: 9780435905552
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 473 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.3
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So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba is an entry in the book 500 Great Books by Women by Erica Baumeister. I am part of the goodreads group by the same name, and I have made it a long term goal to read as many of the choices as possible. Ba was born in Dakar, Senegal in 1929. She attended school and achieved a profession at a time when women in her country had few choices outside of marriage. Ahead of her time, Ba fought for equal rights for men and women both inside of and outside of the home. So Long A Letter is an autobiographical novella, in which Ba professes her desire to see equality amongst all people come to her country.
Ramatoulaye is in the mourning period for her husband Modou. Prior to his death, he abandoned her for a woman half of her age despite having twelve children with her. Rather than divorcing Ramatoulaye, she becomes a co-wife, which is legal in Muslim Africa. Even though she should be afforded the rights of a head wife, Ramatoulaye does not receive anything from her husband, who is supposedly in love with a new wife young enough to be his daughter. At Modou's funeral, both women are given equal treatment even though he had been married to Ramatoulaye much longer, and in the eyes of her community, she should be receive the majority of compensation.
Unable to cope with her depressed feelings, Ramatoulaye composes a long letter to her dear friend Aissatou, who broke through Senegal's glass ceiling, and is now an ambassador in America. Ramatoulaye pours out her frustration that in Senegal the social system is in place that a girl can either get married out of school or be destined to work in a low paying job as midwife or elementary teacher. At the time of publication, there were only four women out of one hundred in the Senegalese assembly, assuring that men make the laws that keep women subservient. It is little wonder to Ramatoulaye that her co-wife would marry her husband while still a school girl. This realization does little to mask her feelings, that of a wife abandoned by the husband of her children, who is now struggling to make ends meet.
Suitors come to Ramatoulaye following her mourning period. They assume that she would rather be married to someone she does not love than single. Yet, Ba through Ramatoulaye writes that women should strive to be more than wives and mothers and hope to achieve jobs as doctor, teacher, ambassador, or any profession that a man also does. Ba wrote this in the post colonial period when Senegalese women were first thinking about equality. Her writing was a means to generate more thinking of this issue in hopes that African women strive to be on equal footing as men.
Mariama Ba created a strong female character in Ramatoulaye. She ushered in an era of African women writers who voiced their concerns about treatment of women in society. Unfortunately, Ba passed away shortly after the publication of her second book, but she left a legacy with So Long a Letter, the first African book to win the Noma Award. A first of its genre, So Long a Letter merits inclusion as a great book by women, and rates 4.5 bright stars.
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Read information about the authorMariama Bâ (1929 – 1981) was a Senegalese author and feminist, who wrote in French. Born in Dakar, she was raised a Muslim, but at an early age came to criticise what she perceived as inequalities between the sexes resulting from [African] traditions. Raised by her traditional grandparents, she had to struggle even to gain an education, because they did not believe that girls should be taught. Bâ later married a Senegalese member of Parliament, Obèye Diop, but divorced him and was left to care for their nine children.
Her frustration with the fate of African women—as well as her ultimate acceptance of it—is expressed in her first novel, So Long a Letter. In it she depicts the sorrow and resignation of a woman who must share the mourning for her late husband with his second, younger wife. Abiola Irele called it "the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in African fiction". This short book was awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980.
Bâ died a year later after a protracted illness, before her second novel, Scarlet Song, which describes the hardships a woman faces when her husband abandons her for a younger woman he knew at youth, was published.
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