To Stir the Heart: Four African Stories - Bessie Head, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
In her two stories, Bessie Head pleads in favor of a life ruled by love and kindness instead of by other factors such as tradition, social status, or hedonism. The first, "The Deep River", is an imaginary origin story for an ethnic group -- wouldn't it be nice if they got started by a man leaving his home for the love of one woman, in the face of all pragmatic decision-making where women were of no account, nor individual emotions. She imagines, among the river of people without faces, a momentary awakening of positive individuality. The second, "The Collector of Treasures", has a strong woman as its hero, one whose hands can do anything, and who knows good people when she meets them, compared to the many egotistical, power-obsessed men who are "hollow" compared to those who know how to love, and who make the world a bad place. Such a phallocrat "who imagined that he was the only penis in the world" was her husband; she dealt with that problem in the usual (though extreme) way.

"Wedding at the Cross", by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, is a love story too, but here the enemy of happiness is the pursuit of the symbols of high status in colonial society: money and the missionary church and Rev. Clive Schomberg's British Manners for Africans. This is contrasted with a distinctively indigenous form of spirituality, as practiced by the poor members of the "Brotherhood of Sorrow". The story makes interesting use of the hymn "At the Cross", with its wedding imagery. Evidently, Christianity has resources that can be living and satisfying, but Miriamu has to know to give herself to the right bridegroom (represented by Wariuki "who is dead", though the analogy to Jesus is not very exact I don't think), and does she have the spiritual resources stored up, like the wise virgins, to do so?

"Minutes of Glory": What is freedom in a society where nothing matters but money and "connections"? Beatrice and Nyagūthiī are dissatisfied with this state of affairs but can't live without it either; the only happiness they know is being admired and desired by powerful men. Beatrice achieves this briefly by robbing a man who seems to her to be the worst because though a "fellow victim", he doesn't have her sense of discontent, instead thinking power is his by right -- indeed, as a man, it's much more within his grasp than within any woman's. Ngũgĩ was perceptive to tell this story from a woman's perspective.