Reading questions for Charlotte H. Bruner's African Women Writers anthology

1. Discuss the validity of this statement: In regard to characterization short stories are obviously a medium limited by length. Therefore the story of women in the short stories we have read, and perhaps in the short story genre itself, are much more universal then the story of women in a work such as The Slave Girl. [Brandon Brown]

2. What is the significance of Charlotte H. Bruner's claim, "Any such collection as this can be at best representative, not inclusive" (preface viii). [Kate Cook]

3. In "Mother was a Great Man", Acholonu writes, "A son caters for continuity of the family-name and external image, but a daughter caters for love, understanding and unity within the family circle....Looking back, Oyidiya thought what an irony of fate it was that she who had been a highly desired daughter, should afterwards hang in the balance because she had no male issue." (11) In many of the stories in this collection, there is a sense of irony involved: In "The Pay-packet" Iba is beaten by her husband because her father has extorted money from him; in "Workday", Elizabeth feels the pressures of being responsible for a household and having to work outside of the home, and takes her anger out on the maid Mary, a "stupid village girl"; the epigram by George Eliot that Zoü Wicomb introduces her story with mentions a "light and graceful irony"; in "She was the Weaker" (the title itself ironic), the son destroys the honor of his bride and her family because he is unable to perform the marriage ritual. Why the use of irony in so many of these stories? Does the quotation from Acholonu exemplify the source from which much of this irony stems (and what is it)?

On a related issue, how does a sense of fate work itself into some of these stories as well? [Erica Dillon]

4. Bruner's collection of short stories seeks to give voice to writings by African women-- under- represented perspectives and views of the world. In these stories what role do eyes and vision playin the themes of change, modernity, and women's oppression? Lucia Duncan

5. "In the story of Jesus- according to Mokuba, the beloved tribesman," the narrator recreates the story of Jesus with the foundation of his tribal upbringing. How is his interpretation of the story different than that of the New Testament? How does his imaginative approach to the story affect it? How is this approach similar to that of Wole Soyinka in his autobiography? [Laura Gelfman]

6. From "The Story of Jesus - According to Mokuba, the Beloved Tribesman": How does John Mokuba's interperetation of the story of Jesus illuminate the reasoning behind his desire to become a Christian in Jesus' tradition? Would his conversion be in the Christian sense of faith and salvation a religious issue at all? [Jeremy Finer]

7. Many of the writers featured in this book have travelled and and/or studied abroad. How has this affected their writing? What differences could we expect between their writings and those of African women without such experience? (Phoebe Koch)

8. Awuor Ayoda in "Workday" and Jean Marquand in "Regina's Baby" both discuss the position of poor black women in wealthier households. In what way does the treatment of Mary at the hands of her black employer differ from the treatment of Regina by the white narrator? How do racism and classism play out in the lives of the characters in both stories, and are the two stories even comparable? [Jennifer. G. Lee]

9. To what extent is Emecheta's idea of marriage as a form of slavery evident in many of the short stories? (For example Devi's "Lakshmi's Gift" and Ka's "New Life at Tandia") In what manner do the characters respond to this do they differ and how are the a like? [Neel Parekh]

10. Although the works collected herein display much variety, they all seem to me to basically concur. For instance, does any one of these writers ever see men and the masculine role in a positive light?? Must male-bashing always be the response to misogny? A juxtaposition with contemporary male writers would be intriguing. Referring back to the everpresent question of representation and representative literature, can these writers be regarded as truly representative? Or are they merely representative of a certain segment or viewpoint, a collection of exceptions to the norm? How influenced are they by Western feminism (and by which particular branches)? Would influence by an outside source or outside sources distort the representative quality of these writers? [Elissa Popoff]

11. Discuss Violet Dias Lannoy's narrative technique in "The Story of Jesus -- according to Mokuba, the beloved tribesman". What is the effect of reading Mokuba's story within the context of the "story at large"? Also, how does Mokuba's "Jesus story" compare with Wole's perception of the "Christian egúngún" in Soyinka's Aké? [Barnali Tahbildar]

Postcolonial Web [Africa]