#DecolonizeReading2023 Adult Award-Winning Books Features Lifespan of a Reader Literary Fiction Reading Themes Saturday Reads

[Saturday Reads | #DecolonizeReads2023] An African Family Saga in Segu

"He knew already that his mission would bring him back to Lagos. To Christianize and civilize Africa - that was his fate. To Christianize and civilize Africa. In other words, to pervert it?" - Maryse Condé, Segu.


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized
  5. Translated or international literature

Segu [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Maryse Condé Published by Penguin Books (1998) Original Title: Ségou. Les murailles de terre ISBN: 9780140259490 (ISBN10: 014025949X) Literary Awards: Le Grand Prix Littéraire de la Femme (1986), Le Prix de L’Académie Française (1988). Bought a copy of the book. Book quote layout via Canva. 

This is the second book that I am reviewing / featuring as part of our #DecolonizeReading2023 reading theme from my target list of 20 books (and 19th book in total since last year) from This Is The Canon: Decolonize Your Bookshelf In 50 Books (Amazon | Book Depository).

My book log indicates that I started reading the book on February 20, 2023 (thereabouts, probably even earlier) and finished it on March 24.

Admittedly, my #DecolonizeReading2023 based on This Is The Canon booklist is exceedingly slow-going – especially in comparison to my progress from last year’s. I won’t belabor some of the things I have already jotted down on my book journal. I would rather share some of the unforgettable quotes from the book that I was not able to insert in my notebook, because no more space (lols).

The quote above, referring to Malobali’s conversion-for-survival, is probably one of the reasons why this particular title fits quite snugly into This Is The Canon – with the linguistic and cultural oppression that vanquished peoples experienced at the hands of people who deemed themselves superior, ostensibly because of the color of their skin.

Since I will be traveling to London soon, this particular quote struck me as well – especially when Eucaristus, Naba’s son, saw England for the first time:

While it seems easy to dismiss much of the novel as misogynistic with all the normalized rape and violence against women, I know that I should unpack the complexity and subtlety of how Condé is conveying the story here. First of all, she dedicated the entire novel to her Bambara ancestress. Secondly, while Dousika’s daughters were never highlighted in the narrative – all the men were beholden in some ways to their mothers, wives, concubines. This particular quote towards the end of the story reveals the way Condé insinuates the men’s powerlessness – even while on paper, technically, their actions seem to be predominantly front and center.

I know I could have rated the book much higher – especially now that I am writing my thoughts about it. I think the rating is more reflective of my limitations as a reader. Since I know very little about the context and the history that was referenced in much of the writing, I get the dates, the names, the tribes confused – and I needed to keep my distance from the story because of all the violence, that I ended up being dissociated from the characters, and caring very little about them. I also found the ending unsatisfactory – almost like Condé did not know when or how to end the story. Yet, despite this, I am glad that I persevered and challenged myself further even when I was on the verge of abandoning the book, because I knew that there is complexity and truths here that need to be revealed. There is also courage – an outspokenness against White colonizers that I find particularly gratifying. Needless to say, I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come.

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 24 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

1 comment on “[Saturday Reads | #DecolonizeReads2023] An African Family Saga in Segu

  1. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] An Ode To Born On The Water – Gathering Books

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