So Long a Letter - Mariama Bâ, Modupe-Bode-Thomas A fascinating & bittersweet look at women's roles (written by a woman) in post-colonial, male-dominated Senegal. Interestingly enough, I read So Long a Letter quite by chance after having just finished [b:Xala|574425|Xala|Ousmane Sembène||561417] by Ousmane Sembène, a male Senegalese author.

Xala centers around a story of an upper-class Islamic businessman who is marrying his third (and much younger) wife. Part of the discussions in Xala center around the roles of the wives, the resentments between them, etc.... So Long a Letter also is viewing the life of women in polygamous marriages, emotionally & articulately poured out in a letter/diary format that a new widow writes to her friend. Part of her angst & sorrow centers around the fact that after 30 years of marriage, her husband married a second wife (who has been a wife for five years by the time the man dies). There's a lot of depth & emotion to this story, many facets of life examined; Senegal in the novella is on the cusp of various social changes as the country straddles the traditional African ways, yet also encompasses some of their inherited European mores. Mariama Bâ was apparently a well-known feminist in Senegal, and I'm happy that serendipity led me to reading So Long a Letter immediately after Xala, partly for the female vs. male view of polygamous marriage in Senegal, as well as the examination of gender roles there.

So Long A Letter won the first (in 1980) Noma Award for Publishing in Africa & rightly deserves it, imo. This is a well-done, touching look at the confines, compromises, & choices that comprise one's lifetime. A recommended novella, especially if you're looking to read African literature.