Maria Thomas

"Antonia Saw the Oryx First"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 09, 1998)

Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas

Antonia Redmond is a white native of Tanzania.  Her father sends her to Harvard to become a doctor. She returns home with Paul Luenga, her black African lover, also a native of Tanzania.  By this time, the Whites have been asked to leave Tanzania and she wonders when she too will be forced to leave her childhood home. Fortunately, they need doctors and so for awhile she knows she can stay. Meanwhile she meets Esther Moro, a prostitute, whom a customer slashes with a broken bottle. Esther Moro can cure by touch, but she can not reconcile this ability for she associates this with the waganga - the same ones who ritualistically circumcise girls in the village she has fled.  She attaches herself to Antonia to try to learn the western ways of healing.

This is an extraordinary story. Antonia Saw the Oryx First provides strong images of the wreck left behind from British colonialism earlier in the century.  The story is complex as it contrasts the thinking and values of a white women doctor trained in the modern ways with that of young black woman with a traditional and sincere gift for healing.

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About the Author:

Maria ThomasMaria Thomas was the pen name for Roberta Worrick who lived for 20 years in African countries, having first arrived as a Peach Corps volunteer in 1971. from Her stories appeared in Redbook, Story and The New Yorker.  She was a Wallace E. Stegner Fellow and received an Overseas Press Club's commendation for reportage in Harper's.  Roberta Worrick died in 1989 at the age of forty-eight when the plane carrying her and her husband Thomas, crashed in a remote area of Western Ethiopa.

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