So Long A Letter

By Ms. Maske and Ms. Olsen

Preview Passage

Excerpt from first week's reading page 32-33.

"'If you can procreate without loving, merely to satisfy the pride of your declining mother, then I find you despicable. At that moment you tumbled from the highest rung of respect on which I have always placed on you. Your reasoning, which makes a distinction, is unacceptable to me: on one side, me, 'your life, you love, your choice'. on the other, 'young Nabou, to be tolerated for reasons of duty'.

Mawdo, man is one: greatness and animal fused together. None of his acts is pure charity. None is pure bestiality.

I am stripping myself of your love, your name. Clothed in my dignity, the only worthy garment, I go my way.

Good bye, Aissatou'

And you left. You had the surprising courage to take your life into your own hands. You rented a house and set up home there. And instead of looking backwards, you looked resolutely to the future."

Be prepared to discuss this quotation and any others that are brought to class Monday, November 17th.

Meet the author, Mariama Ba

Mariama Bâ was born in 1929 in Senegal, Africa. She worked as a novelist and a teacher. She was an active feminist from 1979 to 1981 in Senegal, West Africa.

Bâ’s source of determination and commitment to the feminist cause stemmed from her religious background. She was born and raised a muslim but from an early age began to criticise the inequalities between sexes in African and Islamic traditions her.

Her first novel explores these inequalities lit lovers website eloquently states,

"Her [Mariama's] frustration with the fate of African women 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 and 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.

Ba died a year later, in 1981, after a protracted illness before publishing her second novel, Scarlet Song. That novel describes the hardships a woman faces when her husband abandons her for a younger woman."

Islam in Africa

Islam first came to Africa with Muslim refugees fleeing persecution in the Arab peninsula. This was followed by a military invasion. About seven years after the death of the prophet Mohammed in 639, under the command of the Muslim Arab General, Amr ibn al-Asi. The religion quickly spread West from Alexandria in North Africa reducing the Christians to pockets in Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia.

Many African religions and traditions allowed men to have multiple wives usually in their own home. The men would visit their wive's huts whenever they wanted and fathered children with multiple women. It was easier to accept Islamic religion because it tolerated traditional values, allowing a man to have more than one wife. This was much easier for some to convert to rather than conversion to Christianity.

Gender Equality and Islam

Explore some sites and answer these questions.

There are several Islamic references through out the book, to help you in your understanding go through and answer these questions. This activity will take you less than 30 minutes and help you to grasp the story fully.

  1. What is the role of the Imam in a community?
  2. What is a prayer mat?
  3. What is a griot?
  4. What is the role of cowries in foretelling the future? (pages 40, 65, 81)
  5. How does Ramatoulaye feel about traditional African religion?
  6. Describe Ramatoulaye's religious practices.
  7. What is a koranic school like?

Below are some websites you can use as sources.