"Trying to catch a flowing river in a calabash" is how Margaret Busby, editor of Daughters of Africa, describes assembling this impressively broad collection of writings by women of African descent. Early selections include songs from sub-Saharan Africa and ancient Egypt that carve out a heritage. Later writings are poignant, infuriating, or simply enjoyable. Nisa, a !Kung woman from Botswana, tells of her family's consternation over her reluctance to marry at the respectable age of 12. Carolia Maria de Jesus writes movingly of life in the Brazilian favelas, shantytown slums where she raised her children. And Alice Childress, a talented American writer and actress, contributes a hilarious one-sided conversation in which a brassed-off maid sets her employer straight regarding their decidedly nonfamilial relationship. Drawing on so many cultures strains the connecting thread, but makes the book richly rewarding.