Rewriting the Return to Africa: Voices of Francophone Caribbean Women Writers

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Rewriting the Return to Africa: Voices of Francophone Caribbean Women Writers examines how post-colonial women writers Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart and Myriam Warner Vieyra emerged with a new vision of the notion of origins and identity and in the process revised the myth of the return to Africa previously constructed by Négritude writers in the 1930s. Their works reveal that the rediscovery of Caribbean history and culture leads to a new awareness of hybridity in identity and culture.

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About the Author:

Anne M. François is associate professor of French at Eastern University.

Review:

François's engaging study of three Francophone Caribbean women writers--Guadeloupeans Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart, and Myriam Warner-Vieyra--provides an interesting take on an old theme (taken up principally by male Caribbean writers): the allegorization of Africa as the nurturing mother. For these women, Africa assumes an opposite, though unfulfilling, patriarchal figure. In looking at two of the giants of Francophone Caribbean writing, Condé and Schwartz-Bart, and the less-known Warner-Vieyra, François (Eastern Univ.) differentiates the Antillean male/female sentiment of a mythical return to Africa. Reminiscent of Chantal Kalisa's Violence in Francophone African and Caribbean Women's Literature (CH, Jul'10, 47-6129), which took a feminist perspective in opposition to the patriarchal discourse of male writers in the Caribbean diaspora, the present title provides fresh feminist interpretations of the nostalgic yearnings for a welcoming Africa. In considering each author's search for Caribbean self-identity, François extends beyond the limitations imposed by the negritude and Creole of pre- and post-independence writing; she envisions writings by the women as a willful act of cultural identity rooted in the Caribbean rather than in a search of a mythical nurturing Africa. For these women, writing is a migratory journey that reconnects yearnings for identity to renewed Caribbean feminist understanding of self. Summing Up: Recommended. (CHOICE)

Rewriting the Return to Africa: Voices of Francophone Caribbean Women Writers is a refreshing addition to the scholarship on French Caribbean literature. This book brings an exciting perspective to debates on differences between the productions of a "post-independence" generation of women writers and those of earlier male writers of the Négritude era in relation to their concept of an allegorical Africa. In an incisive analysis of selected novels by Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart, and Myriam Warner-Vieyra, Dr. François argues persuasively that the subversion of the metaphorical figure of Africa by these women writers is tied to gender, as they challenge masculinist versions of the return to an idealized and mythologized mother/father figure. Dr. François presents the intriguing proposition that global nomadism may be the defining characteristic of post-Negritude writers and that, for women writers, the act of writing itself replaces the quest for Africa as a space to seek identity and happiness. This is a fascinating study that brings new insights to texts that have already become canonical and offers alternative interpretations of the preoccupation with identity which plays such a dominant role in the literary history of the French Caribbean. (E. Anthony Hurley, Ph.D., Stony Brook University)

Rewriting the Return to Africa: Voices of Francophone Caribbean Women Writers meticulously demonstrates that the notion of return to Africa ― be it metaphorical, physical or spiritual ― has a long history in Caribbean literature and culture. The text explores the complexity of return as it relates to identity, language, gender and culture. Ultimately, this book challenges the myths of the return to origins and examines errancy among other possibilities as an alternative to Africa-the father/mother land. (Cécile Accilien, Columbus State University)

Rewriting the Return to Africa makes a long over-due and compelling argument about the way we position women's literature in the Francophone Caribbean tradition. Focusing on works by Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart, and Myriam Warner-Vieyra written in the era following African independence, Anne François identifies a key recurring trope: Africa as a "disappointing father figure." In tracing the variations on this theme, she shows convincingly that we must identify Caribbean women's writing of this period as constituting a movement in its own right, one that stands as a bridge between Négritude and Créolité. Lucidly written and clearly argued, Rewriting the Return to Africa will be of great interest to students as well as experienced scholars of Francophone Caribbean and post-colonial literatures. (Valerie Kaussen, University of Missouri-Columbia)

François’s thesis that Condé, Schwarz-Bart, and Warner-Vieyra transformed the myth of Africa as motherland to which Caribbean cultures must necessarily return provides an insightful and original analysis of the role that these now canonical writers have played in Caribbean identity construction. Offering a more complex vision of any Caribbean identity, François shows how these three writers advocate global nomadism over mythical return, and an appreciation of métissage and the local over the celebration of Africa, thus postulating a transnational identity, particularly where women are concerned. The first study to bring together these three Guadeloupean writers, and to identify their pivotal role in the development of Franco-Caribbean discourse, this is a useful addition to Caribbean literary studies. Rewriting the Return to Africa will be of interest to scholars of Caribbean, Francophone, and women’s writing, and is accessible to an undergraduate as well as a scholarly readership. (Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies)

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