A theory of Yere-Wolo : coming-of-age narratives in African diaspora literature
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] The term Yere-Wolo in Mande culture describes the process of "giving birth to oneself," a poetic way to envision the coming-of-age process. I use this concept to explore identity construction and adolescent development in various Bildungsroman novels throughout the African Diaspora. Though the female Bildungsroman form has afforded many women novelists the space to create subjectivity through the very personal, often autobiographical, experiences of young protagonists who struggle with patriarchy and oppression, the Yere-Wolo model provides a divergent reading of coming-of-age texts written by and about women of color. Often critics within the Bildungsroman genre point to a more individualistic, nationalistic process of maturation rather than a communal, diasporic one; therefore I created a theory of Yere-Wolo in order to offer a reading of these novels that is grounded in black feminist/womanist theories, is culturally specific and connects these writers using five recurring elements that I identify in my investigation of these texts. In the first chapter I use Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus to discuss the African woman's quest for selfhood in the midst of pos/neo colonialism. The second chapter on Andrea Levy's Never Far From Nowhere conveys the difficulties of constructing identity in reference to race, class, and gender within a European space. In the third chapter, I look at Michelle Cliff's Abeng to investigate language and identity in the Caribbean. Finally, I include Paule Marshall's Brown Girl Brownstones to examine coming-of-age in America and transnational identity.
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