A Guide for Teaching the African Novel
August 29, 2000-The Chronicle of Higher Education
By ELIZABETH GREENE
African Novels in the Classroom (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000); Margaret Jean Hay, editor. $29.95.
Impressed by the number of books that offer schoolteachers practical advice on teaching specific subjects, and depressed by the lack of such resources for college instructors, Ms. Hay, director of publications at Boston University's African Studies
Center, has put together a guide for colleagues who teach about Africa.
In this book, 24 professors from various disciplines describe how they use a particular African novel in the classroom. They discuss why they chose the work, the related readings they assign, the information they present in their lectures, major themes that emerge in class discussions, and the types of assignments they make. The book is intended for people who teach a unit or course on Africa and are interested in diversifying their reading assignments.
An associate professor of history, Ms. Hay includes perspectives from people who teach African studies, anthropology, history, women's studies, and English, French, and Swahili literature. Their disciplines are varied, but common themes emerge as to why they use novels like Peter Abrahams's A Wreath for Udomo, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, and Buchi
Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood.
Most important among those themes, says the editor, "is the students' ability to relate to fictional characters as human beings, to conceive of African societies as populated by distinct individuals whose behavior, personal concerns, and perceived self-interest can differ widely from one to another." While it is important to remind students that these are works of fiction and are not necessarily historically accurate, says the editor, the books have much to teach about particular African regions at particular times. If you would like to share your thoughts about this book, please send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will post selected comments.