West African Women in the Diaspora: Narratives of Other Spaces, Other Selves, written by Rose A. Sackeyfio

In: African and Asian Studies
Dorothy V. Smith Emeritus Professor (History), Division of Social Sciences, Dillard University New Orleans, LA USA

Search for other papers by Dorothy V. Smith in
Current site
Google Scholar
View More View Less
Full Access

Rose A. Sackeyfio. 2021 (1st Edition). West African Women in the Diaspora: Narratives of Other Spaces, Other Selves. New York, NY, USA/Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge. 144 pp., hardback; price not stated. ISBN 978-1-03-2113067.

The book, West African Women in the Diaspora, which is sub-titled Narratives of Other Spaces, Other Selves, is authored by Winston-Salem State University Associate Professor Rose A. Sackeyfio. In the 144-page publication, the author offers eight chapters of very critical essays, which “examine the complexities of transnational identities among African women,” (Introduction; p. 1). Sackeyfio adds that, in her slim but very poignant publication – issued in Routledge’s very popular African Diaspora Library and Cultural Studies Series – she has thematically chosen to let diaspora embark on center stage in ways that reposition experiences of women in African literary expression.

Confirming that the timelines of her book amplifies the production of the immigrant writing of African women, Sackeyfio further points out that it began in the mid-1970s for Nigeria-born Buchi Emecheta (1944–2017) to be seen as a forerunner of diaspora fiction. Citing the works of the knighted Nigerian-British author (Emecheta, OBE) as representing diaspora perspectives on women’s experiences, Sackeyfio lists examples of her London published novels, including In The Ditch (1972); Second Class Citizen (1974), Kehinde (1994), and The New Tribe (2000); she adds, however, that The New Tribe is an exception because what it does is to examine what the author describes to be the London life of a Nigerian boy.

Introducing works of Ghana-born Ama Ata Aidoo (1942–), Sackeyfio pointed out her writings in the 1970s, which included such works as Our Sister Killjoy or Reflections of a Black-Eyed Squint (1977), which the author of West African Women in the Diaspora: Narratives of Other Spaces, Other Selves saw as having laid “the groundwork for African women’s literature in the global age”. (p. 1). Sackeyfio also reminds her readers with the reality check that the early women authors were performing their literary chores in the midst of male-authored (or dominated) works of leading African writers like Professors Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, which dated between the 1950s and 1970s. She, indeed, names some of their iconic publications as Things Fall Apart (1955; Achebe); The Lion and the Jewel (1965; Soyinka), as well as Death and the King’s Horseman (1975; Soyinka).

In the male affirmational context, Sackeyfio subsequently discloses how, in 2004, Professor Ernest Emenyonu (1939–), a Nigeria-born critic and editor of New Women’s Writing in African Literatur,e noted that there was an increasing presence of African women on the general literary stage; in his editorial, titled, “New Women’s Writing, a Phenomenal Rise”, the editor reportedly lauded the development of women’s fiction from the late twentieth century into the global stage.

Meanwhile, Sackeyfio points out, inter alia, that the varied works she has explored in West African Women in the Diaspora: Narratives of Other Spaces, Other Selves “are unified by theoretical approaches that critically engage post-colonial issues, feminist perspectives, Afropolitan aesthetics, and experiences of diaspora double consciousness or cultural hybridity”, (p. 3). At this juncture, the author offers a sagacious comment about immigrant literature of contemporaneity: “Contemporary immigrant literature by African women explicates post-colonial themes as these play out in diaspora sites within a spatio-temporal nexus of global forces of change,” (p. 3).

Geographically, Sackeyfio also confirms how in West African Women in the Diaspora: Narratives of Other Spaces, Other Selves, the West African sub-region does claim the spotlight, with several writers from the region being featured in the publication, especially writers from Nigeria and Ghana. Pointing out how Nigerian writers have created what she terms as a prolific outpouring of fictional works, as she has expertly discussed in her publication, Sackeyfio promptly cites Nigeria-born Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977–), Sefi Atta (1964–), and Chika Unigwe (1974–), “who carry the legacy of Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa (1931–1993) from early post-independence era into the global age,” (p. 3). She promptly added:

Likewise, Ghanaian writers have made their mark in West African literary traditions through significant post-colonial works by Ayi Kwei Armah (1939–), Kofi Awoonor (1935–2013), and Nii Ayikwei Parkes (1974–) among others. Important Ghanaian Women writers are Ama Ata Aidoo, Efua Southerland, Ama Darko, and Abena Busia. Notably, successful contemporary writers from Ghana are Taiye Selasi (1979–), Yaa Gyasi (1989–), Nana Oforiatta Ayim, (p. 3).

In Sackeyfio’s West African Women in the Diaspora: Narratives of Other Spaces, Other Selves, she offers her readers a lively and topical overview of a selected number of African female writers, in addition to a very succinct but useful conclusion (pp. 124–130). Thematically, there are the following chapters: “Unbelonging, race and journeys of self in the diaspora fiction of Buchi Emecheta” (Chapter 1); “Self and Other(s) in Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo” (Chapter 2); “Violated Bodies and displaced identities in Chika Uigwe’s on Black Sisters’ Street” (Chapter 3); “Negotiating Identity and Pan-African aesthetics in Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie” (Chapter 5); “Unbecoming Dreams, splintered identities, and routes of return in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go” (Chapter 6); “Transnational gaze(ing) and shifting identities in the short fiction of Sefi Atta and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie” (Chapter 7); “There is no place like home: memory and identity in A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta” (Chapter 8); and the already-mentioned conclusion; and index.

Most certainly, specialists in varied academic-cum-intellectual fields as well as the general reader and college students will benefit tremendously from Sackeyfio’s West African Women in the Diaspora: Narratives of Other Spaces, Other Selves. In appearance, it is a slim publication but, still, it is of a very high literary and intellectual quality.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 292 163 5
Full Text Views 89 80 50
PDF Views & Downloads 65 50 11