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J. Nozipo Maraire
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4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  708 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Written as a letter from a Zimbabwean mother to her daughter, a student at Harvard, J. Nozipo Maraire evokes the moving story of a mother reaching out to her daughter to share the lessons life has taught her and bring the two closer than ever before. Interweaving history and memories, disappointments and dreams, Zenzele tells the tales of Zimbabwe's struggle for independen ...more
Published January 16th 1996 by Random House Value Publishing (first published January 1st 1995)
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Aug 28, 2015 Cheryl rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who value freedom of any kind
I sit here on my day off (which isn't really a day off, more like a day alone), and instead of completing my weekly prep for work, I flip backwards and forwards, through the pages of this book, and I wonder why we rarely hear of this New York Times Notable Book. After some pondering, I attempt an answer to my own inquiry. The answer lies within the conversation I had with a friend a couple of months ago, about the political sway of some African fiction. Try living in a country in its post-coloni ...more
Nabse Bamato
"Until the lion learns to write, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter." (pg 78)

This novel is a wonderful attempt to set the record straight. It is written as a letter from a traditional Zimbabwean mother to her modern, educated, daughter, who is going away to study at Harvard. In the letter the mother relates stories from her past about herself, about her family, about her lovers, about her friends, about the contrast between country and city, the traditional and the modern, about Zim
Huma Rashid
This is one of the most beautiful and poignant books I've ever read. It was given to me by Ms. Seaton, an English teacher at my high school. I had never had a single class with her, but she was apparently so taken with me based on what her colleagues said about me that she gave me this as a graduation present and said she wanted me to have it, that she thought I could learn and appreciate a lot from it. And she was right. I should add that we'd never before spoken, aside from hello's in the hall ...more
It's a timeless letter from a Zimbabwean mother to her daughter, a student at Harvard. Each chapter contains a conversation from the mother to her daughter, giving her some life lessons, family history, folk lore so she doesn't lose her roots, her culture, and the values her family and village have instilled in her before her flight to America.

She shares the lessons she learned growing up in Zimbabwe when it was Rhodesia, the segregation between the blacks and the whites, her disappointments and
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an excellently-written and insightful short novel, told in the form of a letter from a Zimbabwean mother to her daughter while the daughter is studying abroad at Harvard. It was a delight to read and certainly deserves a wider audience.

Zenzele is a story about a lot of things, from love and family to political activism and racism. Shiri, the mother, tells stories from her own life and lives of those around her: about growing up in the countryside, about her adulthood in Harare, about the
This novel is written in the form of a letter from a Zimbabwean mother, Shiri Shungu (Amai Zenzele), to her daughter Zenzele, who is leaving to attend Harvard. Shiri's deep affection for the traditional ways of life is often at odds with her modern, free-spirited daughter and the two often disagree. Shiri is concerned that Zenzele will remember her people's customs and history, that even though she is leaving her home, her country, her continent behind and traveling across the sea to attend coll ...more
I am, perhaps, not qualified to be rating, reviewing, or expressing opinion on this book of on being African, during and after the white/European/Rhodesian intrusion and oppression in what is now Zimbabwe.

On its importance, I give it 5 stars, for it conveys much that is left unsaid and continues to be misunderstood regarding the African viewpoint of immigrant experiences, the callous oppression wrought by whites/Europeans for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years, and the conduct of life we sho
Parenting is one of the most difficult (and one of the most rewarding) jobs as you want to make sure you are providing the right tools for your children to be able to be successful and productive as they mature and go out on their own.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Zenzele, especially since it was in the epistolary form, but it certainly exceeded my expectations. As a daughter I remember the lessons my mother, grandmother, and other wise women in my family taught me through word, deed,
Kelsey Demers
This book is pure excellence. Maraire's "Zenzele: A Letter to my Daughter" is truly a spectacular achievement in the genre of autobiographies. It is honest, thoughtful, and a beautiful display of wisdom, allowing the reader to be part of this very intimate letter from a Zimbabwe mother to her daughter bound for America. As she imparts her knowledge and history to her daughter, the reader is privy to a series of snapshots; moments in this mother's life that have helped to shape and form her ident ...more
Read In Colour
"When independence came, we celebrated with tears in our eyes. We would continue the struggle to ensure that our children received every opportunity of Western privilege...There was nothing that our children asked for that we denied them. We who had grown up knowing only deprivation, austerity and hard labor. We wanted only the best for them. We even sent them to the best private schools with plenty of whites... But it was all in vain. They have neither respect nor gratitude....these modern chil
There are one or two points when Nozipo Maraire's use of rhetoric is a little overblown for my tastes, and I still wonder if this would have been better framed as a monologue or a fictional memoir than as an epistolary novel. But those are relatively minor quibbles with what is otherwise a beautifully-written novella. It's an incisive look at what it means to be a woman in Africa; what it means to be an African in the midst of Western colonialism, cultural hegemony and racism; what it is to be a ...more
As the title indicates, this book is a letter from a mother to her daughter who is attending Harvard. The mother is encouraging her daughter to remember her roots in Zimbabwe, both the rural village and the city. To remember the struggle for independence. To remember what it means to be an African woman.

This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read, with poignant lessons we could all learn.
"Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter" by J. Nozipo Maraire is a deep and moving tale. The novel is told as a letter to Zenzele from her mother. In the letter Zenzele is told to not lose track of who she is and where she comes from (her rich family and cultural heritage in Zimbabwe) as she moves to America to study at Harvard. Interwoven into this story is the tale of the Zimbabwe people's struggle for independence from British rule and stories and parables which illustrate how to live with dignity ...more
I loved this book because it confronted my own biased views of Africa, its cultures, and its peoples. The story presents simply as a letter from a mother to her daughter but contains many more truths than this simplistic beginning. Maybe the reason it is so impactful is the premise's basic simplicity. Definitely worth reading! 4.5 stars
Beautiful book written by a woman from Zimbabwe who is a physician trained in the US. This book is written as a letter from her mother, giving her advice about leaving Africa for the US to study, recognizing what her daughter will learn but also what she is in danger of losing if she doesn't maintain strong ties with home. Her mother (and this feels like only a slightly fictionalized account of her life) reminds her daughter of what life was like in pre-liberation Rhodesia, the struggles to gain ...more
U. Teresa
Beautiful, short novel on so many levels: storytelling, language, a country's struggle against oppression, and the relationship between a mother and her daughter. I find this to be a remarkable account of why sankofa is important to the many peoples of Africa. Western culture is a culture of consumption on two levels: it's predicated on people consuming just as it consumes people to the point they negate their native culture. The mother warns of this dynamic, and I hope readers will see it. I th ...more
Gently the reader is put in front of the mirror to examine and face prejudice, stereotypes, assumptions. It is a letter of stories from mother to daughter. It is Africa and Zimbabwe and colonialism, hope and sorrow. History, living and dying. Life.

"I had once been naive enough to believe that all would be well if you lived by the rules. Good thinks happened to good people, blessed are the meek, etc."

"I wonder, too, about God....I have seen so many of our people, myself included, settle for the u
Linda Lipko
Many thanks to bohemangirl35 for recommending this touching, lyrical and heart-felt book.

As Zenzele embarks on an exciting life-changing journey to leave Africa and attend Harvard, her mother chronicles thoughts and feelings in the form of an open letter.

Proud of both her daughter and her country, her mother eloquently encourages her daughter to remember her rich heritage. Citing others who have left, never to return, or who returned changed forever by a culture that provided different values, Z
This was a great read. Done in an epistolary style, the book consists of a letter from an African woman in Zimbabwe to her daughter who has just started college in the United States.

In essence, it is the authors attempt to grapple with the great issues of her time in place and she executes this in a phenomenal manner. She is able to dig into the gray areas and complexity of issues such as the conflicts and convergence of feminism, traditional society and modernity. Rather than read like a morali

My first thought regarding this book (like over the summer) was that it didn't seem like a book you read for school, and I was right. When I think of school books, I think they only have to have examples of rare and uncommon literary devices or are widely known by everyone. Zenzele was neither. Instead, I think the reason we read this book was because it was so culturally rich but still had that concept of imagery and beautiful writing. It doesn't seem very well known (**I may be wrong**) and

Page to page a beautiful book, easy to love. The reader becomes part of the family, though fiction it seems to grow out of an earthen mirror of the true life struggles and realities of families in Zimbabwe and other nations of Africa. The refreshingly honest tone of this letter to a daughter leaving home, bound for the USA and an Ivy League education, is not only woven with strength, love and life lessons of a devoted mother, it is in part culture lesson and insight into the struggles of a colon ...more
Jim B
Written as a letter from a mother to her daughter with insight into Zimbabwean history (Rhodesia - revolution - current) and culture. The daughter (Zenzele) is in America as a student. The mother values her Christian faith, but rejects a European-centered version of it, and embraces many African beliefs that contradict orthodox Christianity. The letters reveal how blind the Europeans are to the native Africans.

There is a wonderful parable on pages 109-111: a young wife married a much older man
Dusky Literati
Zenzele is a series of letters from a Zimbabwean mother to her daughter going away to Harvard. The mother has witnessed the village sending off their best and brightest to be educated at European and American schools with the hope of them returning to utilize what they have learned for the betterment of their community. Instead, once the young have finished their education and experienced Western culture, they only return for infrequent visits and express contempt for what they have left behind. ...more
This book actually shifted back-and-forth from a 3 to 4 for me as I read it. It was a quick read, and more "food for thought" than anything else. Maybe a good book for someone who doesn't know anything about Zimbabwe, because it might spark some extra research? Overall, I ended up thinking it was well-written, worth reading, and would definitely recommend it to others, but it didn't blow me away the way I was expecting.
Although a work of fiction, this book rings true as a letter from a mother to her daughter. A balance of praise for who Zenzele is and what she has accomplished and wisdom that her mother wishes to pass on.

I enjoyed learning a little about Zimbabwe's history and culture through the eyes of one who lived through it. I agree with the assessment that although progress and change are necessary, the past and it's customs should not be abandoned altogether. We should look for the good and noble and c
A sweet book written as a letter from an ailing mother to her daughter. Using family stories and retellings, it captures both the wisdom of a mother and her wonderment of her children. At the same time, it tries its hand at some heavy topics, from religion and racism to African politics and identity. My only (minor) complaint is that at times, the "letter" betrays the familiar voice that a mother would share with her daughter. This is clearly done to keep abreast the reader, who is therefore not ...more
Mau Valmont
Excellent book. Every single chapter holds a powerful lesson anyone can relate to regardless of their culture, age, country or language. Each word within its pages fully englobes a mother's infinite love for her child.
I enjoyed this books greatly entertaining if you still enjoy the post-independence scene. A mother talks to her daughter in the best way she knows how.
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J. Nozipo Maraire (born in 1966) is a Zimbabwean doctor and writer. She is the author of Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter. She is a practicing neurosurgeon in Klamath Falls, Oregon. She got her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and then attended The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. Soon after she entered a neurosurgery internship at Yale. She cur ...more
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“There is not a man in the world who is worth your dignity. Do not confuse self-sacrifice with love.” 19 likes
“To love is a beautiful, mysterious event; do not miss it. Be neither too cautious nor too absorbed. Too many of us reason with our heart and experience with our heads.” 16 likes
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