Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” Is Flora Nwapa’s “Efuru”. She exudes confidence that is not store-bought. She possesses the ability to defy the odds in a society where the men are docile and being a fiery woman is essential for survival.

It’s been a year since the literary society lost a woman whose beauty was not in the span of her hips or the click of her heels. Still, we have powerful, evergreen female characters such as Efuru that live on in books. And that my friends is the power of narratives and stories. Here are some of my favorite quotes from “Efuru” written by Nigeria’s first female published author, Flora Nwapa.

My absolute favorite one is the recurring response, “it is only hunger that is wrong with us” when asking after the welfare of a family. I agree, better hunger than health.

Here are more:

  • Page 74- “Nobody owns this world. Death does not know how to kill.”
  • Page 77- “I washed Ogonima’s corpse and dressed her before the burial. If I don’t wash my hands very well I shan’t forget things easily.”
  • Page 77- “A good woman who greeted you twenty times if she saw you twenty times in a day.”
  • Page 79- “She did not have that fighting spirit which Ajanupu possessed in abundance.”

Let’s take a break here and talk about my second favorite female character in this book, Ajanupu the great. She makes me smile, she leaves me with my mouth hanging open at some of the words she says and actions she takes. For instance, that moment she broke a pestle on Efuru’s husband’s head when he accused her of adultery. Lol.  I am not encouraging that sort of violence, but some ignorant and ungrateful people need to be shut down. Ajanupu’s flaws are as intense as her strength of character, but hey we all have our quirks.

Now, back to the quotes J

  • Page 88- “A man said that he had wept for the death that killed his friend, but he did not wish that death to kill him”
  • Page 89- “It is an ugly woman that looks for a husband”
  • Page 145- “It is not good my daughter, to tell your children what happened many years ago in the family, especially when you know that by telling them you are placing one member of the family against the other”
  • Page 146- “Any reasonable man can listen to a wife who does not tell other people how they live in their home”
  • Page 165- “It was a curse not to have children. Her people did not just take it as one of the numerous accidents of nature. It was regarded as a failure.”
  • Page 221- “She was happy, she was wealthy. She was beautiful. She gave women beauty and wealth but she had no child. She had never experienced the joy of motherhood. Why then did the women worship her?”

The above quote is a fitting end to this emotional journey. Efuru is referring to the goddess of the river here. However, the same can be said of role models, friends, and those we know who are content with the gifts they have without striving towards what people cling to for mainstream happiness. The final question evokes that element of mystery and reflection. Yet another parallel to the questions posed at the Phenomenal Woman in Maya Angelou’s poem.

What makes you different? Some have a readymade answer. For others, time will tell.

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