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The Little Peul

Mariama Barry. Translated by Carrol F. Coates. Introduction by Irène Assiba d'Almeida

BUY Cloth · 208 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813929620 · $60.00 · Apr 2010
BUY Paper · 208 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813929637 · $23.50 · Apr 2010

Born in Dakar but of Guinean origin, Mariama Barry claims both Senegal and Guinea as "her" countries. This dual background lends her significant and widespread visibility not only because she is the first woman writer of Guinea to have gained extensive international recognition but also because Senegalese women novelists were the first African women writing in French to win international acclaim.

Barry's autobiographical novel, La petite Peule (2000), is the story of an early Peul childhood spent in Senegal. The Peul are a primarily nomadic people of western Africa. The book opens with a description of the violence and trauma of a young girl’s excision at age six. This is but the first of many trials. After a younger brother is almost killed by a truck, the family moves to La Medina, a Dakar neighborhood where rats gnaw on children’s toes at night and where children must struggle with adults in order to fetch water or use the communal toilet. Attending school is the one high point in the girl’s life, but even there she must stand up to older bullies. Her family life is completely upset when her mother walks out, leaving her to clean, cook, and care for her younger brothers. Then when her father finds it impossible to cope with the children and with his failing business, he withdraws the little Peul from school and relocates the family once again, this time to his mother’s village in the mountains of northern Guinea. Indignant that children have no rights and are lied to and deserted by their own parents, the young protagonist rebels against the idea that women should accept suffering and subjugation to men. She is determined to direct her own life and assert her right to do so.


Carrol Coates’s timely translation of Mariama Barry’s La petite Peule is a very important contribution to African (women’s) writing and postcolonial literature. Barry’s fresh and unique take in this complex novel brings a sensitivity to issues of gender, sexuality, culture, and transnationalism that undermine the sensationalism rampant in discussions of 'female genital mutilation.

Juliana Nfah-Abbenyi, North Carolina State University · Author of Gender in African Women’s Writing: Identity, Sexuality, and Difference

The Little Peul, which is based on Barry's own experiences in Guinea and Senegal, is a powerful and instructive novel of a young girl whose determination and will permits her to achieve fulfillment and success despite the odds stacked against her.

Belletrista: Celebrating Women Writers from Around the World

About the Author(s): 

Mariama Barry is the author of Le Coeur n’est pas un genou que ón plie. Carrol F. Coates is Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Linguistics at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and most recently the translator (with Edwidge Danticat) of Jacques Stephen Alexis’s novel, In the Flicker of an Eyelid. Irène Assiba d’Almeida is Professor and Department Head of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Arizona, the author of Francophone African Women Writers: Destroying the Emptiness of Silence, and the editor of A Rain of Words: A Bilingual Anthology of Women’s Poetry in Francophone Africa (Virginia).

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