Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo

a nutshell: this 1991 novel follows the love life of a career-centred woman in Accra, Ghana, who divorces her husband and becomes the second wife to a charming & wealthy Muslim man

a line (or four): “‘Why is life so hard on the professional African woman?’ … ‘Why is life so hard on the non-professional African woman? Eh? Esi, isn’t life even harder for the poor rural and urban African woman?’ ‘I think life is just hard on women’ … ‘But remember it is always harder for some other women somewhere else'”

an image: in a fascinating monologue about society today and in their ancestors’ time, Esi’s grandmother conjures up the idea of a better life where it is not always the case that some humans (men) are gods and others (women) are sacrificial animals

a thought: after her husband forces her into sex, Esi later realises she had suffered ‘marital rape’ and mulls over how this would be considered an imported feminist idea, since society wouldn’t have an indigenous term for it – a husband claims it as his right

a fact: Aidoo is the subject of a 2014 documentary The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo by Yaba Badoe

want to read Changes? visit here

The Hidden Face of Eve by Nawal El Saadawi (tr./ed. Dr Sherif Hetata)

Nawal el Saadawi's The Hidden Face of Eve

a nutshell: published in 1977, this landmark discourse on women in the Arab world is as disturbing and compelling as ever – probing FGM, sexual violence/suppression, fertility, marriage, injustice, sex work, religion, history and literature

a line: an extract from Article 67 of Egypt’s Common Law on Marriage here typified the prevailing attitude to women – “No alimony is liable to a wife if she refuses to yield herself to her husband … is the victim of a rape … or if she is suffering from any condition which might prevent the husband from utilising her as a wife”

an image: though the opening scene of Nawal’s own circumcision made a profoundly indelible impression, another image that stayed with me was her depiction of Arab feminist writer May Ziade’s exceptional mind & tragic end – personal setbacks prompted relatives to force her into Asfouria Hospital for Mental Diseases where eventually a report proved she was of sound mind; she returned to Egypt and died alone, aged 55, in a small flat in Cairo 

a thought: Nawal often returns to an essential paradox in how girls are brought up in the Arab world – the insistence on the need to attract an eligible husband, but simultaneously to put her ‘dangerous seductiveness’ out of sight

a fact: scholars have uncovered many depictions of women as the same size as men from the preliminary stages of ancient Egyptian society, indicating gender equality; a subsequent decrease in their size in such drawings/engravings corresponds with the appearance of private property (2420-2140 BC) – Nawal also points out that among ancient Romans the word ‘familia’ constituted a man’s possessions i.e. land, houses, money, slaves, women, children

 

want to read The Hidden Face of Eve? visit here