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Journal Article

“How does a girl grow into a woman?” Girlhood in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between

Keguro Macharia
Research in African Literatures
Vol. 43, No. 2 (Summer 2012), pp. 1-17
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/reseafrilite.43.2.1
Stable URL:
Page Count: 17
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“How does a girl grow into a woman?” Girlhood in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between
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ABSTRACT Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between is a central text in discussions of gendering practices and gendered configurations within Kenyan and African colonial modernity. This article extends those discussions by focusing on girlhood as an especially vexed category in the novel. Taking Muthoni, the Christian leader Joshua's daughter, as its point of departure, it argues that colonial modernity ruptured concepts and practices of girlhood for girls like Muthoni, who were caught between the limbo of Christian modernity and ethnic cultural practice. Unable to fit neatly within either paradigm, these girls experienced themselves as spectral, material apparitions. As these girls interacted with and moved between Christians and traditionalists, their spectral materialities threatened to dissolve the ostensible distinctions between both groups, rendering gendered and sociocultural identifications unstable.

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