Subversive Literature in Nigeria - Romance Novels vs. Islamism
Michelle Faul, writing for The Big Story, reports on how "Romance novellas by women in Nigeria challenge traditions" (August 17, 2016), but these novellas are also challenging the Islamism of Boko Haram:
Nestled among vegetables, plastic kettles and hand-dyed fabric in market stalls are the signs of a feminist revolution: Piles of poorly printed books by women . . . . [that] are part of a flourishing literary movement centered in the ancient city of Kano, in northern Nigeria, where dozens of young women are rebelling through romance novels. Hand-written in the Hausa language, the romances now run into thousands of titles. Many rail against a strict interpretation of Islam propagated in Nigeria by the extremist group Boko Haram . . . . [One author, Hadiza Nuhu Gudaji, explains:] "We write to educate people, to be popular, to touch others' lives, to touch on things that are happening in our society" . . . . [Her] views have gained a recognition unusual for women in her society . . . . [because her] novellas are so popular that she is invited to give advice on radio talk shows . . . . The novellas are derogatorily called "littattafan soyayya, meaning "love literature," Kano market literature or, more kindly, modern Hausa literature. Daily readings on about 20 radio stations make them accessible to the illiterate . . . . They have become so popular that young girls call in to say they're learning to read because they want to follow more stories. That is no minor feat in a region that has more children out of school than almost anywhere on earth, . . . . [where] only one in five girls has had any formal education. Parents routinely pull 13- and 14-year-olds out of school to get married . . . . Critics say the novellas give girls unrealistic expectations, inspire rebellion and are un-Islamic . . . . The books may sound dramatic, but they often mirror life . . . . Last year, one young writer was badly beaten. Young men gang-raped another in her home after she published a book about women's rights in politics.Talk about suffering artists! The longer article describes more of the oppression and difficulties these romance writers face, but given the widespread popularity of these romance books, Islamists might have difficulty in successfully suppressing them.
I used to laugh at this genre of literature, but not anymore. There's something in it that addresses the desires of women and opposes the totalitarianism of Islamists, and that's no mean feat!