Expanding Horizons: A Reflection on Studying Post-Colonial Women’s Novels

      As a sophomore at Eastern, I have had the privilege of taking many courses that have broadened my knowledge of the world around me. The course I can confidently say has had the most impact on me is Post-Colonial Women’s Novels. This course, which counted as my global diversity class, was one of my first introductions to literature outside of western countries.

      In this particular class, not only were the books based in previously colonized countries, they were also all written by women, hence the name of the course. In high school, I was seldom given literature from non-western countries to dissect, let alone authored by women. The first book of this course, Nervous Conditions, opened my eyes to the disadvantage women and young girls face in a male dominated non-western country. What propelled me into the novel was the first line which reads, “I was not sorry when my brother died.” Tambu, the main character and protagonist, fought to go to school after her brother gotten the flu and died. In her community in Rhodesia,  modern day Zimbabwe, the oldest boy is most likely the one chosen to go to school. Because of the patriarchal society and the lack of funds in Tambu’s immediate family, she is only given a chance at education after the death of her older brother. However, even then, she is met with a lot of adversity when she receives an education.

      Another book we tackled together later in the course was Tracks. This challenged my perception of postcolonialism in a sense that it was about a group that is still colonized today– the Native Americans. Unlike many colonized nations, the western powers have left the people they colonized and retreated back to their original territory. However, the United States is home to many ethnicities that do not come from the lineage of Native Americans but of people who originally colonized them. The novel focused on a tribe whose land was slowly being taken over by the White neighbors. The author, Louise Erdrich, focuses on the issues Native American were facing in the 80s with the rise of technology and the “need” for industrialization, even if it took over a reservation. In class, we related this novel to the treatment of Native Americans in the United States today. This not only challenged my perception of postcolonialism, but it raised the ethical question of whether Native Americans are still colonized. Throughout this particular novel, my peers were drawn into the narrative that colonialism is still present in the United States today.

      This course inspired me to continue studying women’s literature along with postcolonial literature. Last summer, I traveled to Maine for a course in gender studies with a group from Eastern.This course then propelled me to take Global Fiction this semester. Global Fiction, related mostly to Post-Colonial Women’s Novels, includes the analyzation of literature from non-western countries. However, unlike my previous courses, this class also includes the male voice of non-western worlds. With the incorporation of courses like the ones I have taken, I am able to broaden my worldview by interacting with the voices of non-western authors. However, do not get me wrong, I do love a good Shakespeare play about English rule or a stellar Hemingway book based on life in Europe. Nevertheless, there is something refreshing about having the privilege of reading a writer’s work about their life in a country that is very different than my own. The material is almost infectious; I am drawn by sheer curiosity and the immense talent of under-appreciated non-western writers.

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