Here is a list of 10 books by Zimbabwean writers that have shared their amazing creativity with Zimbabwe and the world.
“Books open your mind, broaden your mind and strengthen you as nothing else can” – William Feather. This saying sums the intangible value that books have in our lives from fictional stories, to historical accounts. Our list aims to celebrate our Zimbabwean writers and their priceless treasures they have given us through their books.
Waiting for the Rain by Charles Mungoshi
The award-winning writer Charles Mungoshi is recognised in Africa, and internationally, as one of the continent’s most powerful writers today. This early novel deals with the pain and dislocation of the clash of the old and new ways – the educated young man determined to go overseas, and the elders of the family believing his duty is to stay and head the family.
Charles Lovemore Mungoshi (born 2 December 1947) is a writer from Zimbabwe. Mungoshi’s works include short stories and novels in both Shona and English. He also writes poetry, but views it as a “mere finger exercise.” He has a wide range, including anti-colonial writings and children’s books. While the colonial regime initially banned his work, he now writes about post-colonial oppression as well.
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Nervous Conditions is a novel by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga, first published in the United Kingdom in 1988 by the Women’s Press. The semi-autobiographical novel focuses on the story of a Shona family in post-colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s. Nervous Conditions is the first of a proposed trilogy, with The Book of Not published in 2006 as the second novel in the series. The novel illustrates the dynamic themes of race, colonialism, and gender during the post-colonial conditions of present-day Zimbabwe.
Tsitsi Dangarembga was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on 4 February 1959 but spent part of her childhood in England. She began her education there, but concluded her A-levels at Hartzell High school, a missionary school in the Rhodesian town of Umtali (now Mutare). She later studied medicine at Cambridge University but, unable to put up with the racism and isolation she experienced in England, returned to Zimbabwe a few months before the country officially founded their independence.
Zimbabwe’s Cultural Heritage by Pathisa Nyathi
Zimbabwe’s Cultural Heritage won first prize in the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association Awards in 2006 for Non-fiction: Humanities and Social Sciences. It is a collection of pieces of the culture of the Ndebele, Shona, Tonga, Kalanga, Nambiya, Xhosa and Venda. The book gives the reader an insight into the worldview of different peoples, through descriptions of their history and life events such as pregnancy, marriage and death.
Pathisa Nyathi is a published poet, playwright, historian and biographer. He is a columnist for the Sunday News, Umthunywa, The Sunday Mirror and Sky Host in Zimbabwe.
The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marachera
The House of Hunger (1978) is a short story collection that was the first book by Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera (1952–1987), published three years after he left university. Sometimes subtitled Short Stories, this work is actually a collection of one novella of 80-odd pages (“House of Hunger”) and nine satellite short stories. The small group of texts in its entirety reflects the author’s vision of (mainly township) life in Rhodesia (specifically, the period of Ian Smith’s rule of the country that at independence became Zimbabwe) — with a minority of the shorter pieces in the book depicting an African exile’s experience of life in Britain (mainly at Oxford University, where Marechera had studied).
Dambudzo Marechera (4 June 1952 – 18 August 1987) was a Zimbabwean novelist, short story writer, playwright and poet. His short career produced a book of stories, two novels (one published posthumously), a book of plays, prose, and poetry, and a collection of poetry (also posthumous).
Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera
Butterfly Burning is a novel by Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera that was first published on January 1, 1998. Set in the late 1940s, it is about the voice of the people under colonialism in Zimbabwe. It is a romantic story that follows the life of construction worker Fumbatha, who falls in love with Phephelaphi, a much younger woman.
Yvonne Vera (September 19, 1964 – April 7, 2005) was an author from Zimbabwe. Her novels are known for their poetic prose, difficult subject-matter, and their strong women characters, and are firmly rooted in Zimbabwe’s difficult past. For these reasons, she has been widely studied and appreciated by those studying postcolonial African literature.
Rotten Row by Petina Gappah
Rotten Row is a short story collection from the award-winning Zimbabwean author and lawyer Petina Gappah. Her first collection of short stories, An Elegy for Easterly, won the Guardian First Book Prize in 2009, which I suppose is to say, if you like the Guardian and its worldview than this book might well speak to you and the four types of hummus in your fridge.
The fact that it is a collection of short stories might put you off, but then again if you are reading Storgy I would think not. However, the collection is themed around the title of the book, where Rotten Row is a road in Harari which physically and metaphysically sits at the intersection of political, civic and judicial life of the country. The stories intersect with characters appearing more than once. And, as Petina herself points out in the Acknowledgements, the collection is a meditation on the relationship between law and justice in post-colonial Zimbabwe.
Petina Gappah (born 1971) is a Zimbabwean lawyer and writer. She writes in English, though she also draws on Shona, her first language. She is currently based in Berlin, where she has a DAAD Artist-in-Residence fellowship.
Bones by Chenjerai Hove
A reissue of this proclaimed novel, and Zimbabwean classic, that won both the Zimbabwe Book Publishers’ Association first prize for literature, and the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa in 1989. The story is the sensitive evocation of Marita, a farm- worker, whose only son joined the freedom fighters in Zimbabwe’s war of liberation. The poetic language is rich in Shona idiom.
Chenjerai Hove (9 February 1956 – 12 July 2015) was a Zimbabwean poet, novelist and essayist who wrote in both English and Shona. “Modernist in their formal construction, but making extensive use of oral conventions, Hove’s novels offer an intense examination of the psychic and social costs – to the rural population, especially, of the war of liberation in Zimbabwe.”
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
We Need New Names is the 2013 debut novel of expatriate Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo. The first chapter of the book, “Hitting Budapest”, initially presented as a story in the Boston Review, won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing. when the Chair of Judges, Hisham Matar, said: “The language of ‘Hitting Budapest’ crackles. This is a story with moral power and weight, it has the artistry to refrain from moral commentary. NoViolet Bulawayo is a writer who takes delight in language.”
A coming-of-age story, We Need New Names tells of the life of a young girl named Darling, first as a 10-year-old in Zimbabwe, navigating a world of chaos and degradation with her friends, and later as a teenager in the Midwest United States, where a better future seems about to unfold when she goes to join an aunt working there.
We Need New Names was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (2013), the Guardian First Book Award shortlist (2013), and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award finalist (2013). It was the winner of the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature(2013), and won the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for debut work of fiction. It won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (2013).
NoViolet Bulawayo (pen name of Elizabeth Zandile Tshele, born 12 October 1981 in Tsholotsho) is a Zimbabwean author, and Stegner Fellow at Stanford University (2012–14). In 2012 the National Book Foundation named her a 5 under 35 honoree.
Bulawayo was born and raised in Zimbabwe and attended Njube High School and later Mzilikazi High School for her A levels. She completed her college education in the US, studying at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Texas A&M University-Commerce and Southern Methodist University respectively. In 2010, she completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Cornell University, where her work was recognized with a Truman Capote Fellowship.
Hatchings by John Eppel
It is New Year in Bulawayo, and anybody who is anybody is out celebrating. Hatchings, with an introduction by Khombe Mangwanda, was chosen by Professor Anthony Chennells in the Times Literary Supplement as his choice for the most significant book to have come out of Africa. “The story is simple. In a sentence it can be described as a love story centered on a young couple who discover the true power of love amid the social, economic and moral decay that threatens to swallow their love and everything else. But to say Hatchings is merely a love story would be criminal. It is more than that. Hatchings is a story about Bulawayo, about Zimbabwe, about corruption and cultural decay.
John Eppel was born in Lydenburg, South Africa. He moved to Colleen Bawn, a small mining town in the south of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), at the age of four. He was educated at Milton High School in Bulawayo, and later attended the University of Natal in South Africa, where he completed his English master’s degree in ‘A Study of Keatsian Dialectics’. He married at the age of 34 and has three children; Ben, Ruth and Joe. His ex-wife, Shari, is a poet and prominent human rights activist. Eppel teaches English at Christian Brothers College, Bulawayo.
He has published 13 books, one of which has been translated into French (The giraffe man), created a creative writing course for the University of South Africa and published three ‘O’Level and one ‘A’ Level literature study guides. He was awarded the Ingrid Jonker Prize for his first poetry book, “Spoils of War” and the MNet Prize in 1993 for his Novel, ‘D G G Berry’s the Great North Road’. His second novel, ‘Hatchings’ was nominated for the MNet prize in 1993/4.
His works are studied in universities across South Africa.
Strife by Shimmer Chinodya
Strife is a rich and densely written novel that provides a dark exposé of the tension between modernity and tradition, and deep insights into culture in Zimbabwe in the 21st century. Chinodya explores the powerful draw that conflicting ideologies exercise over an emerging middle-class that at once yearns for autonomy and unconsciously desires the irresponsibility of an all-pervading destiny.
Tracing the Gwanagara’s roots back over a century, Chinodya interweaves past and the present, juxtaposing incidents never forgotten or resolved, revealing how memory becomes an actor in lived time. A large family grows up in Gweru. Their father aspires to be an enlightened Christian man; he sees his children through school and college where they do well. But as adults, they are struck by illness. Who is to blame? Who is to cure these ailments? What wrongs have they committed to offend the ancestors? How can atonement be made? Can education, science and medicine provide any solution? Their mother, the moon huntress, seeks out the answers and the cures in traditional beliefs and customs.
Shimmer Chinodya (born 1957 Gwelo, then Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) is a Zimbabwean novelist. He studied at Mambo Primary School. He was expelled from Goromonzi after demonstrating against Ian Smith’s government. He graduated from the University of Zimbabwe, and from the University of Iowa, with an MA in creative writing, in 1985.
He won the 1990 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Africa region.