Efuru, by Flora Nwapa.
Efuru, by Flora Nwapa. London : Heinemann, 
GLOBAL WOMEN OF COLOR REVIEW
A positive portrayal of a beautiful and strong woman and her life in a traditional Igbo village.
Flora Nwapa was among the first women to join African men in gaining international recognition in the 1960s. Efuru, her first novel, was published in 1966. Nwapa is a Nigerian and an Igbo, and the book is presumably set in a village there. In it, Nwapa focuses on village women, often sharply restricted by their husbands and by their culture but strong and capable in themselves. Her positive treatment of women and their ability to survive appears most strongly in her main character, Efuru, a beautiful and good young woman able to thrive despite major losses in her life. The daughter of an important leader, she loses her only child and neither of her husbands are faithful to her. She is generous to others, a very successful trader and follower of the revered goddess of the lake. Other women are her friends and from them we see a variety of villagers’ viewpoints. Although contact with white colonizers is slight, they are viewed as the cause of decline in obedience of the village children and of the village itself.
My experience reading was Efuru was mixed. I certainly found the book interesting and informative and was impressed by the ways in which the women refused to be victims. The writing, however, was formal and even ponderous. Ritual phrases and simple behaviors were repeated time and time again. Even when tragic events occurred I was not drawn in emotionally. Frequently characters “hissed” or “laughed,” but I couldn’t understand why. I am willing to assume that the problems are mine, not Nwapa’s. I am simply unfamiliar with this style of writing. Perhaps Nwapa writes in ways more related to her tradition. What was noteworthy is that I have not had this problem with more recent books by global women of color. Even when they make decisions that I would not make, their books move me in ways that Nwapa’s did not. Many global women today have more experience in international settings, where they share styles of writing. They often protest western and globalized practices, but they write in styles that can be understood internationally.