Friday, October 30, 2009

Leo Africanus Blog Commentary One

This weeks readings were entirely refreshing, new and different from the previous books we have read. Both Before European Hegemony and The Age of Empire were more historical and textbook like with many facts and they were also very repetitive whereas Leo Africanus is written in first person and incorporates what life was like in the 15th century in a very interesting way. This book does a good job of keeping ones attention as well as makes me want to keep reading. The first pages did a good way of capturing the status of women in the family; I found those pages some of the most interesting in what we have read so far. I enjoyed the way the narrator narrates his own birth. Hasaan, the narrator tells stories in the book the way his parents relayed them to him. It goes through his family’s troubles that happened because of the fall of Granada. Granada is a specifically interesting city because of its religious composition, in which the main religions are Muslim, Judaism, and Christianity. This is encompassed into the story by Hasaan’s father taking a Christian woman as his mistress and because both Hasann’s mother and the Christian woman had a Jewish midwife.
One thing that shocked me from off the bat was that Hasaan’s father and mother were cousins. I understand that in many cultures and in history this was a normal occurance, but due to my culture from growing up in the United States in the 20th century, their marriage repulses me. Also I found that the cohabitation of so many religions astounding, as well the competition between the pregnant women entertaining. I enjoyed finding out that they were able to bond when they were put through a humiliating event together, because I found that very lifelike. I feel as though when people go through a big event together it seems to bring them closer, and I like how the author included this. What do you think about it? But what amazed me the most was solely how the author was able to work in many historical events in such an intriguing way and fit them into the life of young Hasaan.
What I wondered though was why in the culture was Warda, the Christian slave woman, considered to be a free woman after giving birth. What do you guys think about this? I would think that she would be outcast or something for giving birth as a mistress, what makes this culture different? What reasoning do you think they have behind deciding that a slave who gives birth is no longer a slave?


  1. Yeah I don't really understand that either. How would having a baby raise Warda out of slavery? I compare this situation to slavery in the United States. A woman who had a baby on a plantation was never given her freedom just because she gave birth to a child. Also, her situation as a a mistress confuses me because American society is not in favor of adultery. For example take the novel The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne gives birth after committing adultery and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. She is confronted with hostility instead of being met with open arms in the community. My only guess is that this culture believed in the purity of motherhood, which might be responsible for the treatment Warda received.

  2. This was the same thing that I was so confused about. Maalouf writes that giving birth makes a slave a free woman. But that doesn't make much sense in our society so it really stresses how different their culture was and forces me to think outside the box. I know that a lot of pressure was put on women having boys to protect family lineage in most cultures. But Warda is a mistress so she is not an official member of the family I don't think, but being a boy it would still preserve the blood. I guess just in general it was so important to procreate. A woman's purpose in life was to bear children.