By blending the works of new writers with more established authors, ’amaBooks seeks to promote previously unpublished writers. Names that are immediately recognizable, among the array of writers, are award winning playwright, Raisedon Baya, award winning author, John Eppel and Oxfam Novib PEN Freedom of Expression award winner and NAMA award winner, Christopher Mlalazi. Award winning author of children’s books, Blessing Musariri, winner of the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association’s Best First Book Prize in 2010, Bryony Rheam and woman of the moment, 2011 Caine Prize winner, NoViolet Bulawayo also grace this collection.
Most of the stories are set against the backdrop of the country’s decade of hyper inflation, economic demise and political strife but, as displayed in this book, Zimbabwean writers do manage to find humour in their own predicament. It is not all comedy. The stories in the anthology are divergent in theme – from comical, tragic, social commentary and allegorical.
Caught in a compromising position, a wife outsmarts her husband in Mapfumo Chihota’s comical tale of spousal infidelity – A Beast and A Jete. Set in rural Zimbabwe, this story leaves a lasting impression for its humour and its clever plot.
Barbara Mhangami’s Christina The Colourful, also within a rural setting, continues the theme of womanly triumph. However, it is something of a paradox, in that the author illustrates the oppression of women, yet the main character’s chosen profession – prostitution – it can be argued, is one that perpetuates the very same oppression, from which women seek to flee. However, as a story, Christina The Colourful is well constructed and stands out as one of the best written pieces of the anthology.
The poignant and tragic tale of sexual abuse, Making a Woman, by Thabisani Ndlovu, illustrates the prejudices existing in society, against people with physical disabilities and the social pressure on women to marry and enter into motherhood. While Mongi, the lead character, a deaf woman, claims a victory of sorts over the men who abuse her, she is left mentally and physically scarred from the ordeal.
Snapshots, set in inflation ravaged Zimbabwe, will draw smiles and chuckles from every reader, before turning into a tragic narrative, in NoViolet Bulawayo’s characteristic style. The characters, for their names and their quirks, will remain in readers’ minds, long after the story ends. It is typical NoViolet; uncomplicated yet intense.
Crossroads, illustrates the trials and tribulations faced by the Zimbabwean immigrant – from visa application to arrival in Mzansi – in search of a better life. Precocious talent, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, in this story – as with all her previous works – is a sculptor of words. Novuyo, who, at only 21, won the 2009 Intwasa Writing Prize, is a skillful writer who, by her work, promises to emulate past literary greats, such as Tsitsi Vera.
Nyevero Muza’s The Poetry Slammer is an unforgettable piece, whose concept is unique, in that there is a character within a character and a story within a story – Nhamo, the lead character is a writer, who invents the story of a performance poet and it is the latter character who dominates this memorable tale.
In this era, where professional women are forced to choose between boardroom success and family, Alone, by Fungai Machirori, is a relevant piece, which is notable for its superb construction and humour.
In this reviewer’s opinion, Sudden Death, by Blessing Musariri is the most outstanding story. Musariri’s use of language and her writing style, which appears so effortless, will endear her to most readers. Rosanna, known to her colleagues as Agnes, is a care worker, living in England. Together with her husband, Simba, they labour tirelessly to save for their dream home, back in Zimbabwe. An unexpected telephone call brings bad news. The humour of this tale turns into heartache. This funny and, in some instances, quirky story deserves special mention among a line-up of 16 beautifully composed, expertly edited, fiction stories.
Where To Now? is a recommended read and would be a worthy addition to the bookshelf of any fan of Zimbabwean literature.