Aug 03, 2022
The Zimbabwean writer and film-maker’s nonfiction debut weaves the personal and the political to arresting effect
I read Tsitsi Dangarembga’s debut novel Nervous Conditions in 2016, nearly 30 years after it was first published. I was 23 and hungry for literature that reflected my reality as a black woman. I found it a compelling but deeply uncomfortable read, and was shocked by the almost violent emotions it inspired. I put it on my bookshelf and tried to forget about it, but, like great literature always does, it stayed with me.
The story, set in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the turbulent 1960s and 70s, follows teenager Tambu’s desperate attempts to escape her family’s poverty and get an education. Motivated by the belief that if she works hard she will be able to realise her potential, she ends up both isolated from her family and rejected by the western millieu she is desperate to join. This state of affairs leads to her complete unravelling. As I prepared to enter the workforce, knowing that I would also have to navigate the expectations of two cultures, Tambu’s fate struck me as a cautionary tale. Continue reading...
Apr 07, 2022
Our sense of home explored through the story of a journalist’s friendship with a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor
In the second half of James Baldwin’s seminal novel Giovanni’s Room, the narrator spots a sailor dressed all in white striding across a boulevard in Paris. He looks at him with a longing he doesn’t quite understand. The sailor reminds him of home, he realises, before making the following observation: “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”
Chitra Ramaswamy invokes Baldwin at the start of her new book, Homelands. In it, she explores how a place becomes a home, what makes a family put down roots, and how hatred can tear them out. She does so by deftly interweaving her own life story with that of the 97-year-old Holocaust survivor she befriends, Henry Wuga. Continue reading...
Dec 30, 2021
How book-loving communities on social media are helping authors break barriers to become bestsellers
Talia Hibbert was rewatching a Spider-Man film and eating a meal in her living room when she received life-changing news. Her romance novel Act Your Age, Eve Brown, which she wrote at the beginning of the pandemic, had entered the New York Times bestseller list.
The lighthearted romantic comedy, published this year, follows the escapades of a young black British woman who crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner. Continue reading...