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A Woman's Odyssey Into Africa: Tracks Across a Life (Haworth Women's Studies) Paperback – 31 Mar 1992


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A master storyteller who is also self-revealing 29 Jan. 1998
By angeldog@netins.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The courage of the author to undertake her adventure of traveling in Africa solo with a backpack at age 50 is indeed compelling. She is a natural storyteller, yet opens up to reveal her own inner struggles based on a difficult childhood with manipulative parents. Her reporting of the practice of "female circumcision" in parts of Africa is introduced in the book as she was doing research. However, as horrible a thing as this is, she helps the Westerner understand where it comes from and how it plays an integral part in that culture even today while at the same time she fights to abolish it. I didn't want this book to end. I would read another book by her in a nanosecond. She's inspiring, honest, and courageous.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A dual quest 13 Mar. 2001
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Hanny's quest in Africa was two-fold: to enlighten us on the condition of African womanhood, and her desperate need for a toilet. The validity of the first quest is nearly obscured by her pursuit of the other. Americans bear a world reputation for their obsession over toilets in other countries. Hanny's frequent assessment of amenities in the Sudan and elsewhere becomes tediously repetitive. One is tempted to ask the location of the return ticket and why it wasn't put to use. Such carping is no longer acceptable, however, and it becomes our duty to cheer her perseverance and fortitude as she continues to address the more important issue.
She deserves full marks for describing the ubiquity and impact of the Barbaric Practice. With roots in many cultures reaching back into a dim past, female 'circumcision' is broadly practiced in Africa and elsewhere. Hanny Klein takes us through many tours of towns and villages, all the while making certain we understand how shabbily African women are treated. It's all a novelty to her, and we are led to share her confusion and anxiety. It's not a pleasant picture and she paints it with the bleakest possible hues.
Along the way through Africa, we are also given numerous insights into her life. Raised in Germany, she went to New York to teach in Inner City [read slum] schools. Her relations with her father beggar description and she was despised by her mother. It's not an auspicious beginning, but it grows worse. She details her parents' relationship, but passes over her own marriage in a few sentences. If she ever had any feelings for the man, they aren't imparted to us. She has the tact to avoid laying full blame at his feet, but you can't help but wonder what prompted the marriage at all. Given her later description of her sexual predation while visiting Europe, it's difficult to accept him as the guilty party. It may be unfair to taint Hanny with an obsession with sex rivaling that of her need for proper facilities, but she spends at least as much ink relating her experiences as she does on the topic at hand.
Today's literature on Muslim Africa relates many interviewers with wives who share secrets about their lives. They tell one tale, while living another. Islam asserts an iron control over women's lives, both emotional and physical. It's alien to Klein as it is to most of us. Klein recounts her growing awareness of Sudanese conditions, deftly bringing the reader along as she gains new knowledge. Female circumcision remains the central theme, with few other aspects of male-female relations examined. Control of female sexuality has no justification, but logic isn't likely to bring it to an end. As Hanny Klein puts it so well; "If only it were a little easier to persuade people to do what is good for them. But how do you win them over to your way of thinking when they have their own definition of what is normal?" Any campaign to end this horrible practice must confront a long established cultural tradition. Given that this book is relates Klein's own inability to deal with a variety of cultural norms in several countries, it makes a poor foundation for fashioning such an effort.
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