Contested filial voice in African female-authored autobiographies

Authored by: Marciana Nafula Were

Routledge Handbook of African Literature

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN:
eBook ISBN: 9781315229546
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Recent scholarship on the autobiographies of Nawal El Saadawi (1931–) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (1969–) has elaborated on the myriad ways in which filiation is established and contested through both maternal and paternal figures. In this chapter, therefore, I have chosen to examine how El Saadawi and Ali deploy the filial voice and oral traditions in their autobiographies as a technique for rewriting their own genealogical record. I consider the forms and functions of filiation in African female-authored autobiographies with an emphasis on the subjectivity of daughterhood. The chapter references four autobiographies by the two writers, namely A Daughter of Isis (1999) and its sequel Walking through Fire (2002) by El Saadawi and Infidel (2007) and its sequel Nomad: A Personal Journey through the Clash of Civilizations (2010) by Ali. These texts are used to illustrate how African female autobiographers re-member and redefine their identities as relational to both maternal and paternal figures. And although El Saadawi is a creative writer, while Ali is not, both use the filial voice to similar effect in their respective autobiographies.

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