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Margaret Laurence’s best-known books are the series of four novels and the short-story collection that have been called the Manawaka works, named after the fictional town in central Canada from which all the major characters originate. The series consists of The Stone Angel (1964), A Jest of God (1966), which was made into the motion picture Rachel, Rachel in 1968, The Fire-Dwellers (1969), A Bird in the House, and The Diviners (1974). Although this is not a series in the sense of sequels, the characters are related through their birthplace and memories, as well as some by birth, as in William Faulkner’s imaginary Yoknapatawpha County.

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Laurence also translated Somali folktales and poetry, published as A Tree for Poverty: Somali Poetry and Prose in 1954, the first collection of Somali literature ever published in English. The novel This Side Jordan (1960) tells the story of Ghanna’s emergence as a nation. New Wind in a Dry Land (1964) is an account of Laurence’s first two years in Somaliland, describing both her experiences and the life of Somali nomads; it was also published under the title The Prophet’s Camel Bell. In the field of literary criticism, Laurence wrote Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists, 1952-1966 (1968), a study of Nigerian novelists and dramatists writing in English. She also wrote four novels for children.

Achievements

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Margaret Laurence is not only a great Canadian writer but also a universal voice for understanding, independence, and brave experimentation with life. Her African work helps to point up the evils of colonization, whether of a country, a people, or an individual. Her Manawaka series more specifically looks at the oppression of women by societal expectations that are irrational and sexist and that result also in the lessening of individual men.

In 1967, Laurence became an Honorary Fellow of United College, University of Winnipeg; she was the first woman and the youngest person to be honored in this way. The novel This Side Jordan won for her Canada’s Beta Sigma Phi Award, a prize for the best first novel by a Canadian, in 1960. In 1971, Laurence was made a Companion of the Order of Canada; in the following years, she was awarded seven honorary degrees. Her novel The Diviners won the Governor General’s Medal for Fiction in 1974 and the Molson Prize. She received the Woman of the Year Award from B’nai B’rith Toronto Women’s Branch in 1976 and won the Periodical Distributor’s Award for the mass paperback edition of A Jest of God in October of 1977.

Other literary forms

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Margaret Laurence published two short-story collections, The Tomorrow-Tamer (1963) and A Bird in the House (1970), and four children’s books, Jason’s Quest (1970), The Olden Days Coat (1979), Six Darn Cows (1979), and The Christmas Birthday Story (1980). She also produced a translation of Somali folktales and poems, A Tree for Poverty: Somali Poetry and Prose (1954); a travelogue, The Prophet’s Camel Bell (1963; also known as New Wind in a Dry Land, 1964); and a study of Nigerian novelists and playwrights, Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists, 1952-1966 (1968). A collection of her essays, Heart of a Stranger, appeared in 1976. Because of her work on Nigerian fiction and drama, she is well known to students of African literature. Her memoir Dance on the Earth appeared posthumously in 1989.

Achievements

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 230

From the beginning of her writing career, Laurence received significant popular and critical recognition. This Side Jordan won the Beta Sigma...

(The entire section contains 1742 words.)

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