HONEY FROM THE LION: An African Journey by Wendy Belcher

HONEY FROM THE LION: An African Journey

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The wide-eyed memoir of a young woman's coming of age during a nine-month trip to Ghana. Belcher, an American born in Ghana, returned to her childhood home at the age of 21 to work for a national linguistic group as a writer and photographer. Her monitoring of literacy and Bible translation in the vernacular languages took her cross-country, but most of her time was spent in Tamale, 400 miles north of the coast. Much of the narrative is woven around Belcher's traveling companion, Mary, a Bible translator and missionary of 20 years. The author is fascinated by Mary's strength, resilience, and self-sufficiency amidst an austere environment, and looks to her as a role model who can offer ""the key that would fit the lock of her life."" Through Mary, She becomes entangled in the social and religious crises of a small Ghanian village where the fundamentals of faith, tradition, and sexuality are put to the test. Belcher's poignant descriptions of the social and cultural barriers that continuously stand in the way of Mary's and her own integration into African society eloquently illustrate the dilemma of many liberal whites who, feeling caught between Western and African cultures, tend to romanticize Africa--and explains in part both the impatience and indignation with African ways that surface when she is arrested by Ghanaian soldiers under an absurd pretext, and the ensuing guilt that she struggles to resolve. Belcher's lyrical and imaginative writing is at its best when she is describing daily scenes of African life. However, her brief and sweeping overviews of complex issues such as polygamy and contemporary Ghanaian politics--particularly her one-sided presentation of the J.J. Rawlings regime--are simplistic and poorly substantiated. Well intentioned, then, but ultimately disappointing.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Dutton