So Long a Letter, Senegalese author Mariama Bâ's first novel, won the prestigious Noma Award for Publishing in Africa soon after its publication in 1980. The epistolary novel traces the story of Ramatoulaye Fall, a recent widow. She recounts how her husband, Moudou, betrayed their marriage by taking a young second wife. Ramatoulaye records her anger at both Moudou and the customs that allow polygamy in her long letter to her lifelong friend Aissatou. In her letter, she muses on how Aissatou's marriage was ruined, also by polygamy. Ramatoulaye and Aissatou, both highly educated women, seem victimized by the traditional customs that deny women status equal to that of men. However, as Ramatoulaye relates, each woman is able to become successfully independent; neither accepts the position of submissive wife. Even while railing against her fate, Ramatoulaye also takes comfort in many traditional values. She hopes for a world where the best of old customs and new freedom can be combined. While well received, So Long a Letter has been the subject of some critical controversy. Some critics question Bâ's feminism, noting that women are pitted against each other in this novel. Others are put off by what they call class elitism in Bâ's novel: They find her portrayals of lower-class characters unsympathetic. Most critics, however, believe that Bâ accurately describes the social, religious, and gender differences that can divide a people even as they strive to forge a strong new nation. They find Bâ sympathetic to all women, even the perceived enemies in the novel—the youthful new wives who displace the middle-aged women. In letting one woman eloquently tell the anguish of her heartbreak, Bâ suggests that all women have important stories to tell and that their plight should be given voice.