Whose daughter my child? By Grace Mutandwa

Book Review By Mondi Kwidini

VETERAN Zimbabwean journalist, Grace Mutandwa makes her debut as a novelist with a provocative book about the trials and tribulations of African women in an increasingly male-dominated society.
Whose Daughter my Child? speaks with the voice of women who ha

ve to endure emotional pain of unimaginable proportions in customary marriage. Though the book tells the story of a single woman, it represents thousands of untold tales of women who dare not open their mouths lest they tear apart the African formbook. The book draws on many real life experiences of women who have sacrificed their lives just to uphold the family name and safeguard the so-called family values. It is written in the form of letters to different characters.
Mutandwa lays bare some of the common problems that woman face in marriage. She gives a graphic account of how women can go to suicidal length to preserve their marriages and cover up for their errant husbands.
“I have been through so much pain alone because I believed wives must protect their husbands. I believed wives must never wash their dirty laundry in public. Good wives do not tell tales about their errant husbands. I learnt early in life that a good woman bears the cross without flinching or whingeing.
“I have held back my true feelings for so long because as a black woman I am not supposed to have feelings, unless of course they coincide with those of my husband and everyone else around me.”
She notes that even though they have a variety of choices to escape some of the trauma that they are subjected to, women often put up with the troubles – and many end up contracting HIV-AIDS as a result.
The book, told in very powerful and precise language, tells a story about an extremely faithful African woman, who despite having a good education, a job and earning a very respectable salary had to wait for years for an errant husband (Daniel) who only makes time for his family when it suits him. The woman had to endure the embarrassment of having to share this husband with her friends and trusted colleagues. Daniel was a perfect example of a womaniser, an irresponsible father and careless soul. In as much as the book is a showcase of marital problems that women face, it is also about betrayal and deceit.
“One fine thing in my life – how I have always believed that it did not matter that Daniel was such a horrible womaniser, but I felt comforted by the fact that he would always come back to me. I guess I have always been so naïve and have always been trusting. When I look back now I have really been the perfect African woman- raising no questions, pretending everything is fine and even feeling guilty about my husband’s cheap behaviour,” says the woman in the book.
The book manages to capture the emotions of a practical African society where a woman who dares answer back to her husband is considered to be an outcast. It suggests that a true African woman is one who gives her husband a warm embrace even if he goes around doing things that are against the expectations of the society.
“You vowed that you would never talk to me if I divorced Daniel. Do you remember when I told you that I was scared of this new disease and feared that my husband would pass it on to me? Do you remember telling me that I should see my marital vows through? Death has certainly done its part but was it worth it?”
This so-called perfect African woman ends up not only contracting AIDS but also losing a life, friends and the love of a husband.
Although the life of an African woman appears to be that of a victim, Mutandwa offers hope and alternatives through her well thought-out book.
“It is my sincere hope that one day women of all ages will give themselves the freedom of choice and the right to map out their lives,” said Mutandwa.

Post published in: Arts

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