May 5, 2009

Tsitsi Dangarembga

A couple of weeks ago, I went with a friend to a reading at the African Studies department on NU's campus. I knew nothing about the author and, with less than twenty people in attendance, I wasn’t expecting anything phenomenal. But when the introduction was given, I was surprised to be in the presence of someone so accomplished. I wondered why there weren’t more people there. The author, Tsitsi Dangarembga, was the first black woman in Zimbabwe to publish a novel in English. As a young adult, studied in England and then went on to study film in Germany. I listened attentively as she read from her two published novels and a third in the works. She had the grace of someone who has persevered against the odds to make a difference through her art. After hearing about her struggle to find a reputable publisher and actually get paid for her work, I bought Nervous Conditions. I’m about a third of the way through it and I’m thoroughly impressed.

Dangarembga is a feminist and a women’s rights activist in Zimbabwe, where they have little access to books. When a student asked her what she was reading, she said that a dictionary for her son cost $50 American. She can’t afford to buy books and the libraries are practically non-existent because of the destroyed economy. I felt ashamed. I'm so spoiled because I have access to thousands of books. I complain that I don't have enough time to read and absorb them all. I really felt that I, as an American that has access to thousands of books, should support this human rights activist who stays in her war-torn country (instead of running to America where she could get more funding and notoriety) and fights to bring literacy and self-respect to her people.

To read more about Tsitsi Dangarembga:

You can purchase her first novel on

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