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Exchange Is Not Robbery

More Stories of an African Bar Girl

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


While living in West Africa in the 1970s, John Chernoff recorded the stories of “Hawa,” a spirited and brilliant but uneducated woman whose insistence on being respected and treated fairly propelled her, ironically, into a life of marginality and luck as an “ashawo,” or bar girl. Rejecting traditional marriage options and cut off from family support, she is like many women in Africa who come to depend on the help they receive from one another, from boyfriends, and from the men they meet in bars and nightclubs. Refusing to see herself as a victim, Hawa embraces the freedom her lifestyle permits and seeks the broadest experience available to her.

In Exchange Is Not Robbery and its predecessor, Hustling Is Not Stealing, a chronicle of exploitation is transformed by verbal art into an ebullient comedy.  In Hustling Is Not Stealing, Hawa is a playful warrior struggling against circumstances in Ghana and Togo. In Exchange Is Not Robbery, Hawa returns to her native Burkina Faso, where she achieves greater control over her life but faces new difficulties. As a woman making sacrifices to live independently, Hawa sees her own situation become more complex as she confronts an atmosphere in Burkina Faso that is in some ways more challenging than the one she left behind, and the moral ambiguities of her life begin to intensify.

Combining elements of folklore and memoir, Hawa’s stories portray the diverse social landscape of West Africa. Individually the anecdotes can be funny, shocking, or poignant; assembled together they offer a sweeping critical and satirical vision.

From Publishers Weekly

Oct 11, 2004 – Fans of Hustling Is Not Stealing will be eager for these further adventures of Hawa, the West African bar girl who told her stories to musicologist Chernoff in 1977 and 1979. Though it's better to start with the first volume, this sequel could stand alone if necessary. The earlier tales were set in Ghana and Togo. Now Hawa has migrated back to her father's country, Burkina Faso, where she's working in the nightclubs of Ouagadougou, while periodically visiting her ailing father's village. She details the complex economic arrangements of bar life the commission system for hustling drinks, the various rates for sex with bar clients and the informal banking system for safeguarding a girl's daily take. Indeed, Hawa focuses almost exclusively on bottom-line financials how to get money out of different sorts of men, the relative benefits of living as a mistress, wife or girlfriend, and the competition from cheap prostitutes. She even discusses the downside of her hustling life: with no husband, she's devalued in village life and has no income security. Still, Hawa prefers this to what she sees as the false security of marriage. Hawa sounds much older now, with little of the exuberance that made Hustling so compelling. Still, for Africanists, feminists and those who know the hard-won value of street knowledge, Hawa remains a strong, provocative teacher. Maps, glossary.
Exchange Is Not Robbery
View in iTunes
  • $36.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Feb 11, 2013
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Seller: Chicago Distribution Center
  • Print Length: 424 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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