Spanning a wide geographical range, this collection features many of the now prominent first generation of African writers and draws attention to a new generation of writers. Powerful, intriguing and essentially non-Western, these stories will be welcome by an audience truly ready for multicultural voices.
Modern Africa's senior writers join a selection of promising new voices in this splendid sampler of short fiction from more than a dozen nations. Larson, a professor at American University, includes his own illuminating introduction and prefaces each story with a succinct author biography. Reflecting a variety of narrative styles and voices, many of the stories address similar themes: the effects of political turmoil on ordinary citizens; the mysterious presence of spirits; the importance of resilience and family. Some of the most moving stories concern tensions between native Africans and their European employers. These include "Black Girl," by Sembene Ousmane of Senegal, in which a maid's suicide comes as a surprise to her dangerously nave employers, and "Mrs. Plum," by Es'Kia Mphahele of South Africa, in which a liberal, well-meaning woman and her daughter have a complex and troubling relationship with the young African girl who works in their house. Other notable stories, particularly from postcolonial writers, concern events purely African. In "Two Sisters," Ghana's Ama Ata Aidoo explores the sexual compromises women must make for material possessions they see no other way to acquire. In Malawian Steven B. M. Chimombo's autobiographical "Another Writer Taken," an author gradually uncovers exaggerated but alarming rumors of his disappearance. Larson makes a convincing case for concern about the future of Africa's writers, and this valuable collection will no doubt serve two noble ends: to spread the underappreciated literature of a continent and to show the need for protected literary speech, in Africa and around the world. (Aug.)