Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 269–289 | Cite as

Recovering and recovering from an African past: four women’s quest narratives

  • Annie GagianoEmail author
Original Article


Four narratives feature in this article—Maya Angelou’s All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes (1986), Aminatta Forna’s The Devil that Danced on the Water: A Daughter’s Quest (2002), Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road (2010) and Noo Saro-Wiwa’s Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria (2012). The article discusses, in their order of publication, the ‘returns’ that take these authors back from the USA or the UK, respectively, to Ghana, Sierra Leone and (in two cases) Nigeria. The article addresses the commonalities in the authors’ quests for knowledge derived by re-assessing both the African ‘fatherland’ and their own links with it, and analyses how such explorations combine and involve personal/affective realizations with public/societal awareness and knowledge. The four texts in compelling but different ways expand the transatlantic dimensions of these writers’ ambiguous insider/outsider positions as they re-assess both themselves and ‘homelands’ that are no longer ‘home’. The complex sources and painful aspects of the evolving knowledge/s recorded in these narratives by gifted writers of African affiliation contribute to the texts’ authority and significance.


Quest Knowledge Recovery Fatherland Ambiguity Selfhood 



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Copyright information

© The Editor of the Journal 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.English DepartmentUniversity of StellenboschStellenboschSouth Africa

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