For Black History month, we'd like to share some of our favorite African-American and other influential black women fiction authors.
Our list continues with historical fiction French (Guadeloupean) author -- Maryse Conde (Wikipedia)
Ms. Condé's historical fiction brings to life issues of race as they impact gender and cultural issues. She has the tremendous ability to bring life to overlooked characters in history. Rather than hitting us over the head with these important issues, she delicately unfurls the lives of those who live in these times. In that way, we feel the constrains of race, gender, and social roles as if we were living through them.
Moreover, Ms. Condé uses vivid characterizations to lay bare the often overlooked experiences -- a slave in Puritan New England, African people brought to the Carribean to work as slaves in plantations, the side effects of large infrastructure projects on poor people of the world, and even the death of the weird little guy in a small town.
Here is a highlight of three of her novels to give you a sense of the breadth and depth of her work:
- I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem (1986): (Wikipedia) Ms. Condé uses the scant historical record to create an entire world around this forgotten part of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Her adept fiction fills in the gaps to bring Tituba alive.
- The Tree of Life (1992): (Wikipedia) Ms. Condé uncovered the unintentional personal side-effect for the international creation of the Panama Canal. Using her lyrical fiction, she follows a family who leaves abject poverty in Guadeloupe to work on the Panama Canal. He amasses a fortune as an undertaker. The story is about how this money translates through the generations.
- Segu (1980): The book begins in 1797 in the thriving kingdom of Segu in West Africa. The sovereign nation is hit at the same time by the new religion of Islam from the east and the slave trade from the west. Told from the persepective of a single family, the story follows the individual journeys of the five sons including on who is taken into slavery and one who turns his back on tradition to embrace Islam.
Ms. Condé brings to life the important issues that are currently at play in many of our current political and social issues.
She is a scholar of Francophone literature and Professor Emerita of French at Columbia University.
She is the recipient of the Grand prix littéraire de la Femme (1986), Prix de L’Académie francaise (1988), and the New Academy Prize in Literature (2018) for her novels.