The Backbone of a History

“For women like me, it seems, it’s not ours to take charge of beginnings and endings . . . Let men write those stories. I can’t. I only know the middle ground where we live our lives . . . Don’t dare presume there’s shame in the lot of a woman who carries on. On the day a committee of men decided to murder the fledgling Congo, what do you suppose Mama Mwanza was doing? Was it different, the day after? Of course not. Was she a fool, then, or the backbone of a history? When a government comes crashing down, it crushes those who were living under its roof. People like Mama Mwanza never knew the house was there at all. Independence is a complex word in a foreign tongue. To resist occupation, whether you’re a nation or merely a woman, you must understand the language of your enemy. Conquest and liberation and democracy and divorce are words that mean squat, basically, when you have hungry children and clothes to get out on the line and it looks like rain.”

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

8 thoughts on “The Backbone of a History”

  1. I like it because it represents the point of view of an oppressed minority in a way that does not diminish the importance and realness of this point of view. The mode in which the author represents this point of view precludes discourses that assume laziness if someone is not politically active. It is a clever piece of writing, and it also shows the power of the written word. The women it depicts would not have time to write it, yet it helps us to imagine the world in her shoes.

  2. Yes, that’s why I like it as well. I also like it because she lends strength to the idea that real life, somewhere in between, out in the middle, ultimately has more power, collectively and individually, than the political and military charades out at the idealogical and spectacle driven edges.

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