I am pleased that Zimbabwe is the last country on the list, because I have a soft spot for the country and its people. I love traveling there, and I even sponsor a couple of AIDS orphan girls in Harare. I have read about every book set in Zimbabwe I’ve been able to get my hands on, so I was a bit worried about finding one for this challenge. I know there are several I haven’t read, since Zimbabwe has a fantastic selection of good authors, but finding them can be a challenge. I was lucky enough to find Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire at my library.
Such a lovely book! It is about a mother who writes a letter to her daughter, who is studying at Harvard. In her letter she tells her daughter about the life lessons she has learned throughout her life in Zimbabwe. There are many stories and people mentioned in the letter. She shares both history, including the struggle for independence, and her own memories, as well as the big dreams she had, and the equally big disappointments.
I loved the stories in the book. The mother is extremely wise. “Until the lion learns to write, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.” Her memories of life are quite often about these lions and hunters. The mother is a traditional woman in most ways, and her daughter a modern woman taken by Western customs and life. “Welcome, my dear, to the Western world, land of democracy, freedom, and bigotry.”
“Racism is a phenomenal thing; it is like a thick mist that obscures the vision and judgement of even great minds.” I love how insightful and perceptive the book is. I felt like the book could have been written today instead of over 20 years ago. Even though the subjects in the book are common issues in Africa; tradition versus modern, religious beliefs, independence, British rule, men and women, the new, modern women studying, and providing for the family.
I think this book speaks to everyone who is interested in understanding and reading about life in Zimbabwe, as well as southern Africa in general. What a great way to end this round of reading the world (I still need a few more books, but more on that in the next blog post). “Until we begin to put pen to paper, we historically do not exist.” And this is exactly what she did! Highly recommended!