Senegal / 1979
After Ramatoulaye's husband dies, she must observe four months and 10 days of mourning, per tradition. As she copes with his death—and his painful betrayal—she writes to her best friend, Aissatou, trying to heal, gain strength, and understand the fate of women in Senegalese society. Originally written in French, So Long a Letter was Mariama Bâ's first novel. Born in 1929 in Dakar and raised Muslim by traditional grandparents, she struggled throughout her life to accept the inferior roles she felt women were forced to take on. Thus, her writing tended to examine and criticize gender inequality in West Africa. She reminds me of the late greats Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria) and Lauretta Ngcobo (South Africa)—African women writers who also explored gender inequality in their novels.