If you were to ask who my favorite African woman writer is, my mind would immediately go to Ama Ata Aidoo and her novel Our Sister Killjoy. Detailing an African woman student's journey throughout Europe, the main character, Sissie, is the novelistic equivalent of a phrase I love: the sun is on a different trajectory. To put it more clearly, in "exchange" for an European education, Sissie is supposed to follow the sun's path and settle in the West. However, after her studies, she returns to Ghana.
I have often said that calling black literature "fiction" is a bit of a misnomer. Fiction is defined as "any form of narrative which deals, in part or in whole, with events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary and invented by its author(s)". The accepted practice of censoring black voices, I believe, has led us to call our literature fiction as opposed to a term that reflects the understanding that what might not be factual, in whole or in part, in white literature, might actually be factual, in whole or in part, in black literature.
My parents and their siblings, were like Sissie - African students sent West to gain knowledge it was assumed would be brought back home. Unlike Sissie, however, my parents and their siblings didn`t return to Africa - except for periodic visits. As their child, born and raised in the West, the things I experienced growing up in a culture which, from inception, has denigrated Africans and African culture, have led me to the belief that the price for such education was too high. Taking such history into account, there is no way this novel wouldn't resonate with me.
The chapter of this prose poem that I liked the most is the last one, entitled A Love Letter. As the name suggests, it is indeed a love letter but one written after the cessation of a relationship, not at its apex. Sissie, who was given the appellation "killjoy" (although qualified by the words "Our Sister") due to what her lover refers to as her "anti-Western neurosis". In this section, Our Sister gives a litany of reasons of why she is uncomfortable in the West; reasons which range from artificial heat to combat the cold to eating food which causes her to break out in hives; reasons which boil down to the simple fact that she "...sometimes, missed plain palm-oil on boiled greens".
That feeling, generalized as homesickness, transformed in Our Sister's mind to spending "many sleepless nights trying to understand why, after finishing their studies, our brothers and sisters stay here and stay and stay.
After all, was it not part of the original idea that we should come to these alien places, study what we can of what they know and then go back home?
As it has turned out, we come and clearly learn how to die. Yes, that must be it. And it is quite weird. To come all this way just to learn how to die from a people whose own survival instincts have not failed them once yet. Not once."