So Long A Letter is a epistolary fiction of two lifelong best friends; Ramatoulaye and Aissatou. Ramatoulaye is the writer of the long letters in this book and Aissatou is the recipient. Ramatoulaye writes of her experiences as a woman, a mother and a wife; detailing what she has faced in her journey from when she married her husband to giving birth, loosing children and her husband betraying her.
This classic is a beautiful and well thought creative body of work. Mariama Ba writes a tale that sheds light on how womanhood is different for every woman. Using the experiences of Ramatoulaye and Aissatou to explore the themes of womanhood, feminism, polygamy, motherhood and many more; Mariama Ba tells the story of many women and their “choices” they have.
“This is the moment dreaded by every Senegalese woman, the moment when she sacrifices her possessions as gifts to her family-in-law; and, worse still, beyond her possessions she gives up her personality, her dignity, becoming a thing in the service of the man who has married her, his grandfather, his grandmother, his father, his mother, his brother, his sister, his uncle, his aunt, his male and female cousins, his friends. Her behaviour is conditioned: no sister-in-law will touch the head of any wife who has been stingy, unfaithful or inhospitable.”
This book points to the importance of education for women and how this helps women move from oppression to freedom as well as give them clarity in their decisions. Mariama Ba also tries to showcase the coexistence of culture and modernization and she raises the question of if they can ever coexist.
Should You Read?
So Long A Letter is definitely one to read as it speaks powerfully and it’s demanding in it’s questions on the dignity of the African woman. It is more beautiful that it was written in the days when a topic like Feminism was deemed inappropriate.