Read Maru by Bessie Head Free Online
Book Title: Maru|
The author of the book: Bessie Head
ISBN 13: 9789029016421
Date of issue: 1986
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 768 KB
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Reader ratings: 7.4
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This year I am participating in a women of color reading challenge, which has allowed me to read books by female authors from around the world. Recommended to me was Bessie Head, one of Africa's leading women authors. In her novella Maru first published in 1971, Head writes about the classism, racism, and sexism that exist in Botswana. Using the story of a Masarwa teacher to tell her tale, Head shows her readers the hierarchy of life in the tribal village of Dilepe.
With her mother's passing at her birth and father's deserting her, Margaret is orphaned as a baby. Taking compassion on the child, English missionary Margaret Cadmore adopts the baby, naming her with her own name, and raising her as her own. The young Margaret excels at both school and at art and quickly rises in the ranks of the Botswana school system. Upon graduation, she finishes first in her class and is assigned to teach primary school in the small village of Dilepe. Seeing that her child is now an independent adult, the older Margaret returns to England, leaving her charge to face a world of racism on her own. Margaret Cadmore, despite having an English name and achieving at everything she does, is a member of the detested Masarwa tribe of Bushman. Other tribes look down at the Bushman as primitive and keep them as both servants and slaves. It is in this light that Margaret the teacher enters Dilepe for her first assignment after graduation.
Immediately, Margaret brings light and joy into whatever she does. She becomes close confidantes with senior teacher Dikeledi, who tells Margaret to be proud of being Masarwa. More pressing, both tribal leaders of the village, Moleka and Maru are instantly smitten with Margaret. Destined to lead the village, Maru still holds Masarwa slaves, yet is enamored with Margaret nonetheless. As both men desire the teacher for himself creating a rivalry between close friends, tension ensues at the school as the white men in charge of the system desire nothing more than to be rid of the Bushman teacher with an English name. Yet, in addition to being desirable in the eyes of men, Margaret is an excellent teacher. Head reveals how prejudice rears its ugly face, and giving this facet of the story a happy ending, run the white men out of town. Justice prevails at school with Dikeledi emerging as the new principal and Margaret keeping her job. The rivalry between Moleka and Maru, however, boils until the novella's denouement.
Even though Head has created strong female protagonists in both Margaret and Dikeledi, she still writes of the sexism that exists in African villages. As Maru's sister and taking on a leading role in Dilepe, Dikeledi has loved Moleka for his entire life and desires his heart. Yet, being in a leading tribal role, Moleka feels the need to assert his authority and sleep with a different woman every night. According to village lore, he has not missed sleeping with a woman from the time he was twelve years old. In the role of modern African woman, Dikeledi encounters Moleka's mother and states that she does not want to be like the other eight single mothers of his children who inhabit Dilepe. Rather, if he fathers her child, she wants him to take the responsibility of marriage. Head reveals here how sexism is prevalent in African culture, and in reading the contemporary works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we see how, unfortunately, this is still an issue today. Head is ahead of her time in creating strong female characters who assert themselves against both the sexism and classism that exist in their village.
While Maru and Moleka allow a woman to get between them, the friendship between Margaret and Dikeledi endures despite the mens' attempts to ruin all around them. Maru was not on my radar going into this year, but I enjoyed reading about the inner workings of a small African village, despite the prejudices that exist there. Bessie Head writes her novella along the lines of an African folk tale while revealing how women and native tribes can no longer stand for the -isms that have always been a part of life. I am interesting in reading Head's other writing as I continue my year of reading women of color, and rate this novella 4 bright stars.
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Read information about the authorBessie Emery Head (6 July 1937 – 17 April 1986), though born in South Africa, is usually considered Botswana's most influential writer.
Bessie Emery Head was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the child of a wealthy white South African woman and a black servant when interracial relationships were illegal in South Africa. It was claimed that her mother was mentally ill so that she could be sent to a quiet location to give birth to Bessie without the neighbours knowing. However, the exact circumstances are disputed, and some of Bessie Head's comments, though often quoted as straight autobiography, are in fact from fictionalized settings.
In the 1950s and '60s she was a teacher, then a journalist for the South African magazine Drum. In 1964 she moved to Botswana (then still the Bechuanaland Protectorate) as a refugee, having been peripherally involved with Pan-African politics. It would take 15 years for Head to obtain Botswana citizenship. Head settled in Serowe, the largest of Botswana's "villages" (i.e. traditional settlements as opposed to settler towns). Serowe was famous both for its historical importance, as capital of the Bamangwato people, and for the experimental Swaneng school of Patrick van Rensburg. The deposed chief of the Bamangwato, Seretse Khama, was soon to become the first President of independent Botswana.
Her early death in 1986 (aged 48) from hepatitis came just at the point where she was starting to achieve recognition as a writer and was no longer so desperately poor.
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