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by Katherine Fishburn. Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 1995, 201 pp., $59.95 hardcover.
These complementary books both treat the problem of reading Nigerian women writers in English. Katherine Fishburn treats one author and provides close readings of eight novels by Buchi Emecheta. Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi includes a long chapter on Emecheta, but she also discusses Flora Nwapa and Adaora Lily Ulasi of the older generation of Nigerian women writers. She concludes with a chapter about five younger writers who are beginning to gain a reputation: Funmilayo Fakunle, Ifeoma Okoye, Zaynab Alkali, Eno Obong, and Simi Bedford.
Although both authors wish to avoid the double pitfalls of false universalism and voyeuristic exoticism so often associated with Westerners reading an African text in their "own language," they approach the subject from a quite different set of premises. Indeed, reading these books, one by a Westerner and one by a Nigerian, together should provide excellent inoculation against taking glib assumptions along as we read the work of writers from very different cultural backgrounds. The organization of both books is similar; each author uses an introduction and the first two chapters to set out her theoretical position. Succeeding chapters discuss the novels, eight in the case of Fishburn, twenty-eight in the case of Ogunyemi. Because so much of the material is …