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by Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa

Balewa (1912-1966) was elected Federal Prime Minister of Nigeria in 1960 and later killed in a military coup. This novella (the author's only major literary work and a bestseller in his native country) was first published in 1955. Hiskett ( The Development of Islam in West Africa ) warns that it ``is more than a story. It is a statement of the values and philosophy of orthodox Islam.'' The tale within a tale about the Hausa, black Africans who observe Islamic law, relates the plights of slaves bought and sold at the turn of the century. The mother of the eponymous young narrator must leave her son and entrusts him to the care of a friend, but he is kidnapped. When a hyena attacks and devours the kidnapper, Umar is adopted by a series of childless women. These foster mothers are enslaved, while the child (later a wise man and teacher) is concerned solely with his own comfort. When his real mother learns of the kidnapping, she tells her parents, ``and they both exclaimed, `God is mighty!' '' Similarly impenetrable exchanges make it difficult for Westerners to view Shaihu Umar as more than a curio, despite the inclusion of an introduction commissioned for this first American edition. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept.)

Hardcover: 80 pages