Despite Western autobiographical theory's ongoing efforts to render it impossible, African autobiography—and autobiography in general—thrives. Examining the process of decolonization in African autobiography, this essay traces a discursive shift from tragedy to comedy in three African autobiographies by explaining how these texts negotiate the challenging terrains of history, language, genre, modernity, and colonialism. Camara Laye's haunting The Dark Child tragically narrates his discursive alienation from African society, while the other two—Dugmore Boetie's Familiarity Is the Kingdom of the Lost and Buchi Emecheta's Head above Water—comically challenge Western autobiographical discourse by denying the possibility of verifying autobiographical truth or by contesting the Western success narrative. Thus, in its analysis, this essay seeks to avoid a crippling essentialism by approaching Africans texts both as specific, localized narratives and as a part of an emerging global discourse of "noncoercive knowledge."


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pp. 32-54
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