Reading List

As part of preparation for coming to Senegal we wanted to develop a running list of books related to the country, Senegalese life, and seminal Senegalese literature. It’s been a little bit of a challenge to find fictional works that have been published in English and things have been busy so this, as are most of the posts on this blog, is a work in progress. Here is a brief reading list. As we complete some of the books on the list, we will write up a short expanded review. Enjoy! Titles are listed alphabetically.


So Long a Letter, by Mariama Bâ (originally published in French,  Une si longue lettre)images

  • Awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980.
  • Author’s bio: Bâ was a Senegalese author and feminist. She was born in Dakar in 1929 and lived until 1981. Bâ as raised a Muslim and at a young age began to question and criticize inequalities between the sexes based on tradition. Bâ was raised mostly by her maternal grandparents, after the death of her mother at a young age. Her father was employed by the French colonial government as a treasury teller. She has a predominantly traditional upbringing and her grandfather was not in support of her education as a young woman, however, he father was committed to making sure received the best education possible at the time. While receiving her education she was still expected to complete the domestic tasks and duties of a young girl. She also studied the Koran and her winning of a competition awarded her access to the Ecole Normale de Rufisque, a top French language teacher-training school. She received her teaching certification in 1947 and began teaching right away. She married Obèye Diop-Tall, a Senegalese member of Parliament but they divorced and she raised their 9 children on her own. She published her first book, Une si longue letter in 1981.
  • Our review: Reading So Long a Letter brought me a tiny step closer to understanding the complexities of Senegalese society, polygamy, and the challenges many women face throughout Senegal and West Africa. I am by no means any sort of expert or have any in depth knowledge on the topic, in fact I’ve only known a few people in my life who have grown up in polygamous families so its all still very new to me. But with that said, this book is a beautiful exploration into the mind of a woman who has been betrayed after 25 years of loyal marriage, child rearing, and devotion to her husband when he takes a younger wife. Ramatoulaye, the main character addresses her letters to her dear friend, Aissatou, who chose divorce over remaining in a polygamous marriage. Ramatoulaye is raising 12 children on her own and we learn through her own voice all of the difficulties and joys that includes. Ramatoulaye’s own questioning of her life, role in society, and every day actions illuminates her own struggle. After her husband’s death, she receives more than one marriage proposal and we learn through that how she is constantly fighting to be an independent woman in society. The path she chooses is difficult and fortunately for her, she had the ability to make choices, but her story is one that demonstrates the evolution of women in a post-colonial Senegal and into modern times as it provides insight into future generations through the lens of one of her young daughters.

The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, by Cheikh Anta Dio

  • Author’s bio: Checkh Anta Diop was born in Diourbel, Senegal on December 29, 1923. Cheikh Anta DiopWhen he was 23 years old he traveled to Pairs to continue his studies of physics. Shortly after, however, he began exploring more critically the African origins of humanity and civilization. Diop was a historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician whose theories became essential to Afrocentricity. His biography and influences are enormous. We suggest additional research for more information.
  • Our review: PENDING!