The first book of long fiction by an African to be published in English, this novel tells the story of a young woman of the Vai people in Liberia. Guanya Pau, betrothed as a child to a much older, polygamous man, flees her home rather than be forced into marriage, and the novel recounts her subsequent efforts to reach the Christian community where the man she loves awaits her. Joseph Jeffrey Walters was a Vai man who converted to Christianity, and this, his only novel, is a remarkably complex work, embracing both Christian beliefs and a deep pride in his African heritage.
This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction that locates the novel in the context of Vai culture and the history of African missions, and a rich selection of historical documents relating to the education of African women, the Vai writing system, and the author’s life.
“Arguing against polygamy and child betrothals and insisting on equal rights for women, Guanya Pau merits recognition as the first feminist novel written by an African. In an excellent introduction, Griffiths and Singler provide an impressive amount of information on this pioneering text and its author.” — Bernth Lindfors, University of Texas at Austin
Joseph Jeffrey Walters: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
Introductory Notes to Guanya Pau
Guanya Pau: A Story of an African Princess
Appendix A: From Sir Arthur Helps, Friends in Council (1853)
Appendix B: Charles C. Penick, “The Devil Bush of West Africa” (1893)
Appendix C: Excerpts from three books by Thomas Besolow (1890, 1891, 1892)
Appendix D: The Vai Writing System
Appendix E: Letters and Articles by Joseph Jeffrey Walters
- To Mrs. Louise Wood Brackett, 5 October 1888
- To the Editor, Oberlin News (7 April 1892)
- To the Rev.William S. Langford, 15 May 1893
- To the Rev. Joshua A. Kimber, 2 June 1893
- To the Rev. Joshua A. Kimber, 12 October 1893
- “An Appeal for Help,” Oberlin News (30 November
- From “A Letter from Africa,” Baltimore American (21 January
- To the Rev. Joshua A. Kimber, 5 June 1894
- Annual Report and Scholarship List, Cape Mount Mission,
13 August 1894
- To the Rev. Joshua A. Kimber, 17 September 1894
Appendix F: Obituaries of Joseph Jeffrey Walters
- From The Storer Record (February 1895)
- From The Oberlin Review (6 February 1895)
Gareth Griffiths is a Professor of English at the University of Western Australia. He is the author of African Literatures in English (East and West) (2000) and the co-editor of The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (1998).
John Victor Singler is a Professor of Linguistics at New York University and the author of An Introduction to Liberian English (1981) and numerous articles on English and the other languages of Liberia.