Revisiting Bessie Head’s ‘A Question of Power’ for #WPGhBookClub

In my initial review of A Question of Power, I was quite ambivalent about the book — I had questions about Bessie Head’s stance on issues of race and sexuality and I was mostly confused by the parts of the story that cover the protagonist’s mental breakdown. I considered reading it again but pushed that thought aside as I made my way through my other planned readings. The thought resurfaced when I saw that the Writer’s Project of Ghana was hosting a discussion of the book on Twitter. I didn’t get to re-read the novel in full prior to the discussion, but revisiting it and discussing it with others has made a full re-read seem well worth it.

To read some highlights of the Twitter discussion, please click here.

My response to that closing questions comes from one of my favorite statements made in the book:

“It seemed to be a makeshift replacement for love, absenting oneself from stifling atmospheres, because love basically was a torrential storm of feeling; it thrived only in partnership with laughing generosity and truthfulness.”

This statement and also Elizabeth’s relationships with others who work the garden in Motabeng are what have stuck with me most since my first reading. In some ways this book is also a guide to navigating the world for marginalized folks. Elizabeth’s mental breakdown is brutal (Head was uninhibited in her descriptions of Elizabeth’s torture) but the story is not completely hopeless; one clear message from the novel–influenced by Head’s interest in Buddhism–is that God is in everyone and that good and evil are both a part of each individual.

I’d highly recommend these reviews of A Question of Power (as suggested to Twitter book discussants by the Writers Project):
13. A Question of Power by Bessie Head | ImageNation

A Question of Power by Bessie Head | Madness and Literature Network

The #WPGhBookClub discussion is a monthly event that happens online and offline; to participate, follow @writersPG. The next selection is Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard.

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