Great African Reads discussion

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Great African Reads: Places > Rhodesia/Zambia/Zimbabwe

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message 1: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Since quite a lot of interest has been expressed in knowing more about this part of Southern Africa, I made it our first topic thread...Katy, feel free to talk about your time in this region. Is there a member from either Zambia or Zimbabwe? If you are out there, please DO join this conversation!


message 2: by Katy (new)

Katy | 81 comments Okay, I'll take up the gauntlet!

I often find it difficult to launch into a verbal narrative about my time in Zimbabwe, but when it comes to writing, I sometimes get what my sister calls diarrhea of the fingers! Hope I don't give you too much info here.

I went to Zim in October, 1999 with a group of 42 (I think) Peace Corps trainees. Most of us were going to be teachers in rural secondary schools; some would teach sciences, some would teach maths, and most of us would teach English. All of us would also serve our schools as librarians. (As an interesting aside, only two of us were actually trained, degreed librarians. I was one of those.)

Our training period lasted for 3 months, and we were in a township about 30K from Gweru, the 4th largest city in the country. It's in the Midlands province, and Peace Corps liked to have training in Midlands because many people there speak both Shona and Ndebele, two of the primary languages of Zim. English is widely spoken; most business and government is conducted in English, and in secondary school, all instruction is supposed to be done in English.

After training, I started the 2000 school year at Kazangarare Secondary School. It's in Mashonaland Central province, and was about a 5 hour bus ride from Harare (the capital). The closest town was Karoi.

Many rural Zimbabwean schools provide housing for teachers, so I lived on the grounds in a house I shared with another teacher, Mr. Ndowa, and his wife. It was a simple brick house. We didn't share living space. There was a hallway down the center, and two rooms off either side. They had 2 rooms -- one used as a bedroom, one used as a kitchen -- and I had two.

When I say the word kitchen, your mind probably unconsciously pictures a room with a sink, refrigerator, stove/oven, cabinets and counters. This was just a bare room. I had a sort of counter/table that the previous volunteer (Mark) built on which sat a water filter, a couple of small paraffin (kerosene) stoves on which I cooked, a bookcase that Mark also built, and a couple of chairs. It sounds pretty bare, and it was, but it was also comfortable. I used that room a lot. I cooked and ate in there, prepared lessons, scored homework or papers, played Scrabble with another volunteer (British, with VSO), and listened to music on my small portable CD player.

There was no running water, so I had to fetch water from a nearby well/pump every day. During rainy season, we would also collect water from the roofline in big buckets or even big kitchen pots. I never learned how to carry buckets on my head, but I would carry two buckets at a time, so the muscles in my arms became strong and defined. :) There were several Blair toilets, or long-drops, as some folks call them, that were shared by all teachers. Bathing rooms were essentially little square, brick rooms with a smooth concrete floor, no ceiling. I would warm water on my paraffin stove, and take a bucket of warm water to the bathing room. I actually enjoyed bathing in the open air. On the few occasions when it rained too much to bathe outside, I'd do that in my kitchen.

The nearby township of Kazangarare (less then 1K away) had recently gotten electricity, but we didn't have it at the school yet. So, I read by candelight. I once mentioned that in a letter to my mother, and she thought I was joking.

Our school was overcrowded, and so we had two sessions every day; they called that hot-seating. Kids in Forms 1 and 3 would come from 7.30-12.30, and Forms 2 and 4 would come from 12.30-17.30. I taught Form 1 English. I had only two classes, because my school was building a new library and my headmaster wanted me to spend plenty of time in it upon completion. There were 72 kids enrolled in one class, and 74 in the other. Usually, about 60-64 actually showed up. I had only THREE textbooks to serve all those students, which made teaching reading comprehension very, very difficult.

Oh, dear, this has become very long! I think I'd better stop for now. Maybe I'll do another installment later.

Katy G.


message 3: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Katy wrote: "Okay, I'll take up the gauntlet!

I often find it difficult to launch into a verbal narrative about my time in Zimbabwe, but when it comes to writing, I sometimes get what my sister calls diarrhea ..."


wow--thanks so much, Katy! You write really nicely; I could picture things...have you ever considered writing about your experiences for publishing? Zimbabwe is fast becoming a mystery, sort of like Libya.

Btw, I laughed out loud at the term "diarrhea of the fingers." I've used that term myself to describe my own ailment! :D

yes, absolutely...your fans are eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Katy in Zim serial...


message 4: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Wow, Katy, that is definitely not too much. I'd love to hear more, esp. about the library, how you taught reading with only three books etc.


message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Heidke | 12 comments very interesting stuff. 60-64 students in one class?? were you the only teacher? I teach an ESL class of 15 and think that is large...


message 6: by Anne (new)

Anne (awarf) I just introduced myself in the "introductions" section. I have been to Zambia, so Marieke and Muphyn suggested I add something here. I'll repeat part of the post for background...

"I spent 2 weeks (in Zambia -- 2007) with Alliance for Children Everywhere, a group that works with children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic (malaria, poverty, etc.). I stayed in a dorm area of a crisis nursery and visited quite a few schools -- meeting some of the most energetic and welcoming children I have ever encountered! I also had a chance to visit the local hospital and an AIDS research center operated by Emory University. I did have a few days of relaxation before returning home. We visited Vic. Falls and spent a few additional days in South Africa."

I found Katy's description of the Zimbabwe schools interesting, so I'll try to describe what I saw in Zambia. Zambia offers free education to its children through grade 7. The problem is that many of the children can't afford to buy the shoes, uniforms or books, required to go to school. So, the "free education" is often not acted upon -- especially when children are needed to help earn money for food and to care for ill loved ones. Also, higher education after grade 7, is very difficult to attain, because of a lack of schools and extremely high grade requirements. So, education, in general, is very limited.

Some of the local churches have set up schools inside the churches, during the week, for children that cannot afford the state-run schools. These are the schools I visited. Of course, these churches are generally fairly poor themselves. The facilities are quite basic, often just 4 concrete walls, maybe an aluminum roof and a concrete or dirt floor). Benches (at least in the churches that have them) are moved around for classroom instruction. Class sizes can be pretty large -- I suspect they don't want to turn children away. Only one (of 11 church/schools I visited) had electricity and glass windows. This church had a U.S. sponsor that provided these "amenities". Others had a few open windows, allowing the dirt to blow in, but many classrooms were quite dark -- and, yes, children were sharing their books in the dark. I have heard of some improvements since I've been there, mostly due to donors, but I think these conditions are still pretty common. (ACE, the organization that I went with, works to help find the donors). Anyway, the children I met were all very serious and enthusiastic about school. They seem to realize this is the only way out of poverty.

Katy also mentioned the lack of plumbing and lighting. I was fortunate to have both in my dormitory, but I saw the lack of both in many of the places I visited. It was very common to see a pot of boiling water on top of some type of fire pit outside of a building. This was the "kitchen stove". I also saw the community water pumps/wells, where people went to fill their huge containers of water -- people returned to their homes with these containers balanced on their heads. I learned that children are taught to balance bundles on their heads from a young age. We saw everything balanced on heads... from small bundles, to heavy 5-gallon containers of water, to crates of chickens, to 6-foot long bundles of branches (and the branches were being balanced while riding a bike)! We asked our guide to try to teach us how to balance things on our head. Unfortunately, all we had available at the time was a watermelon. Our guide succeeded... we did not. Then, we noticed some locals watching us. We all had a good laugh!

On our drive back to Lusaka from Vic Falls (a 7-hour drive), I remember noticing small villages along the way. We approached Lusaka as night fell, and I remember thinking something seemed odd. Then, I noticed one village where all of the buildings were lit up. I realized that this was the 1st village I had spotted with electricity. As we passed dark villages, I began noticing small groups of people sitting around "campfires", here and there. It was at that point that I realized just how common it was to have no electricity.

Although difficult on the emotions, the hospital and the research center were interesting to visit as well. I appreciated the chance to see a couple of facilities that were not associated with a church, to help me attain a broader perspective on what I saw.

Finally, I haven't read any books specifically about Zambia. Prior to taking the trip, suggested reading for our group was "African Friends and Money Matters", by David E. Maranz. It is probably not the typical book people recommend in this group. It is rather dry and repetitive at points. It does give some interesting perspectives on how money matters are approached in many African cultures, however. It helped to explain a few things I saw on my trip. For instance, when driving along road-sides, we frequently noticed communities with half-built houses, but no construction in the process. We asked our guide about these communities. She was in her 40s (same age as me). She explained that, on the occasion that a person comes across a small amount of money, they are often expected to help others in their family or community. It can be difficult to save. So, to keep a little something for themselves, people often begin building a house. They build a little at a time, purchasing a few building materials as they come across some extra money, with the goal of completing a house by the time they retire. Until that time, people live with other family members. Our guide told us she had one of these houses herself, and expected it to be finished upon retirement. The book actually discussed this cultural tradition of sharing earned money/assets within a community. It explained that people can be ostracized within a community, if they are seen as not wanting to help others. It did help to understand the culture a bit.

Anyway, that's all I have for now. I think this has become fairly long as well. Sorry it didn't have more to do with books!


message 7: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Anne wrote: "I just introduced myself in the "introductions" section. I have been to Zambia, so Marieke and Muphyn suggested I add something here. I'll repeat part of the post for background...

"I spent 2 we..."


thanks so much, Anne! Don't worry about a lack of book recommendations right now; i think if we hear about real experiences, it will making reading more meaningful.

do you expect to go back any time soon?

i loved the story about trying to balance the watermelon (for lack of anything else!)...i love when people try something new and unfamiliar in a different culture and everyone is on the same page humor-wise. i think it's one of the greatest things about humanity.


message 8: by Katy (new)

Katy | 81 comments wow--thanks so much, Katy! You write really nicely; I could picture things...have you ever considered writing about your experiences for publishing?

Thanks, Marieke!. I kept a blog during the 2 years that I lived in South Africa, and several friends suggested that I should try writing a book. But I don't think my life or experiences were all that interesting or unique; they were so interested mostly because they were my friends! :)

Andrea, you asked about teaching reading with only 3 books. It was a challenge! I had a big flip chart, so sometimes I would copy some paragraphs from the textbook on that and I'd either have the kids copy it into their notebooks, or we'd read it in class. I could also use the blackboard, though that was more difficult because it was hole-y.

Three or four weeks into the first term, the headmaster brought me 10 more books, and while it was still less than ideal, it helped.

I'll try to write more this week.


message 9: by Anne (new)

Anne (awarf) Marieke, I don't have any plans to return at the moment. Our church partners with ACE, and generally sends someone over every few years to stay updated on progress. So far, it has been someone different each time. I do hear from the founders regularly, and even hear stories about what happens with some of our donations. I don't know if you've ever heard anyone say, "TIA". I've definitely learned what "This is Africa" is about. Our donations always seem to get where they are intended, but there is almost always a story associated with it.

As for trying something different in a new culture, I completely agree with you. When you merely observe, it is easy to see the differences. When you actively participate, you begin to see the similarities. Humor is always a great place to start!


message 10: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Anne, thanks for sharing your experiences with us. I like your comments in the last paragraph. I think it's true that when one starts to actively participate, the distances of language and culture begin to be reduced. You quickly learn something about people's individual personalities when you cooperate on a task together.


message 11: by Manu (new)

Manu (manuherb) | 166 comments Anne writes, " . . . I haven't read any books specifically about Zambia."

I worked in Lusaka 1967-68. I was married in the Boma there. Simon Zukas was my boss. This is his autobiography.

Into Exile and Back, Simon Zukas, Michigan State University Press. Into Exile and Back, by Simon Zukas. Lusaka: Bookworld Publishers, 2002, viii + 220 pp. 14 colour photos. (Available from David Zukas, 189 Mountview Road, London N4 4JT or davidzukas@onetel.net.uk £8 including postage.)

Afr Aff (Lond) 2004 103: 497-498; doi:10.1093/afraf/adh056 [PDF:]

Simon Zukas is one of a handful of white settlers who played a significant role in both anti-colonial and postcolonial politics in East and Central Africa. He has been involved with the country for well over fifty years, and is today still chairman of an opposition party, the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD). His autobiography provides an account of his Lithuanian and Jewish childhood, his family’s flight from the pending holocaust in Europe, his remarkable struggle to adapt to a new society and involvement in Marxist and radical politics in Cape Town. It details his experiences in a Livingstone gaol, and deportation to London where he provided a haven for anti-colonial activists. He describes his role in the post-colonial society, his ambivalence about the popular but anti-democratic one party state, implemented by Kaunda, and his role in opposition politics and stints as a government minister in the post-Kaunda era.

’...[this:] autobiography is an important contribution to the political and social history of Zambia and should be read by everyone with an interest in the history of the country over the last sixty years...[it:] is well produced and is written with engaging modesty and quiet humour’. – African Affairs
Afr Aff (Lond) 2004 103: 497-498; doi:10.1093/afraf/adh056 [PDF:]

See also African Studies Review, Dec 2004 by Eugenia W Herbert,


message 12: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Thanks, Manu! I just added it to my TBR list. It is in goodreads and is screaming to be read: Into Exile and Back


message 13: by Anne (new)

Anne (awarf) Yes, thank you, Manu... I definitely plan to read it as well!


message 14: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 19 comments Hi Anne,

Thanks for your post, it was very interesting. I sponsor a child in Lusaka through Children International and I am always trying to learn more about the area. I hope to visit there some day to meet him. I found your comments on education very interesting. My sponsored child is in the "7th" grade although he is 10, which is the same age as my son here in the U.S. who is in fifth grade. When I inquired about that discrepancy, Children International said that the grades don't coincide with ages because many of the kids don't go to school until they are sponsored. But, I guess my sponsored child must have been lucky - and I guess that school years don't coincide with a full "year". I understand they are on a 3 semester system - so what grade 7 really means, I have no idea. But, my sponsored child writes beautifully, so I am happy to see that. I recently sent a special monetary gift to cover his school fees and uniform and plan to do so for as long as I can. My goal has been to be able to lift one child out of poverty, and we'll see how successful this will be. I have also just inquired about his older brother who is not sponsored, but still in the sponsor age. (They can be sponsored up to age 19.) Anyway, so as not to divert away from books - if you are interested in conversing more, please email me at jawspope@charter.net. I'd love to hear more!
Wendy


message 15: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments Wow -- I loved reading about both Anne's and Katy's experiences. Thank you both for sharing! This area of Africa is one I have always had a very strong interest in learning more. It was great to hear from the 2 of you based on your first-hand experiences.


message 16: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Thanks for the suggestion, Manu. I've added it to my list, too.


message 17: by Manu (new)

Manu (manuherb) | 166 comments I've just had an email message from Jane Morris at 'amaBooks Publishers in Bulawayo.

Their website,
http://www.amabooksbyo.com/ and blog http://amabooksbyo.blogspot.com// are both well worth a visit.


message 18: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 19 comments Manu,

Thanks for the tip on "Into Exile and Back", I will definitely read this one. I am interested to know more about the history of that area. It appears to be a place of great beauty, wonderful people and yet such dire poverty that many people live in.
Wendy


message 19: by Anne (new)

Anne (awarf) I thought I'd note that I just added a post in the "Books for Africa" section. It applies to Zambia and, perhaps, could have been posted here as well. It is rather lengthy. Rather than re-post, I thought I'd just mention it. If you are interested in book donations and considerations associated with them in the country, feel free to look for the post.


message 20: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Anne wrote: "I thought I'd note that I just added a post in the "Books for Africa" section. It applies to Zambia and, perhaps, could have been posted here as well. It is rather lengthy. Rather than re-post, ..."

Anne, your post at the other thread was fascinating...i plan to muse a little and ask some more questions based on reading your post and Wendy's post and also Petra's earlier post as well as reading Manu's links (which i haven't finished doing.
Anyone reading this thread who might be interested in seeing what this is all about, you can find it easily here.


message 21: by Anne (new)

Anne (awarf) Thanks, Marieke. I'm not well-versed at adding links and other things to make these posts more readable. Perhaps I will learn as I go!


message 22: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I'm still learning myself! :D


message 23: by Matt (new)

Matt | 13 comments Completely unrelated to this discussion...

But I was in a bar in Bamako chatting with an Irishman, when he leans over and tells the very drunk man on the other side of him that I like Mugabe. This man was a very large, very drunk "Rhodesian".

He didn't seem to take it very seriously, thank goodness.


message 24: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "Completely unrelated to this discussion...

But I was in a bar in Bamako chatting with an Irishman, when he leans over and tells the very drunk man on the other side of him that I like Mugabe. T..."


wowwwwwww......that needs to be a scene in a movie....


message 25: by Lorraine M. (new)

Lorraine M. Thompson (lorrainemarie) | 22 comments I just read a quick review of "Casting with a Fragile Thread"by Wendy Kann.

Casting With a Fragile Thread is one of the best examples of a non fiction Zimbabwean coming-of-age story on shelves today. This is the story of three sisters growing up during the end of the colonialism age in Zimbabwe, as told by the eldest girl. It examines race and inequality in a frank manner, and explores the concept of 'home' not just as a place, but a feeling. Wendy Kann weaves a compelling, real-life tale of her childhood (and adulthood) that will keep you up past your bedtime from http://www.adventuresinafrica.com/blog/


message 26: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments Lorraine M. wrote: "I just read a quick review of "Casting with a Fragile Thread"by Wendy Kann.

Casting With a Fragile Thread is one of the best examples of a non fiction Zimbabwean coming-of-age story on shelves t..."


I thought this book was good, but I like Peter Godwin's Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa and Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood a bit better. Alll 3 are worth reading though I think.


message 27: by Katy (new)

Katy | 81 comments I loved Mukiwa. I was less excited by Fuller's book, primarily because much of it is written through the eyes of her primary school self. And I'm not all that interested in the thoughts of primary schoolchildren. :)

I didn't dislike it, though. And I thought her Scribbling the Cat was riveting.


message 28: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments Katy wrote: "I loved Mukiwa. I was less excited by Fuller's book, primarily because much of it is written through the eyes of her primary school self. And I'm not all that interested in the thoughts of primary ..."

Scribbling the Cat was definitely compelling. I couldn't get it out of my head! If you don't mind crossing over to Botswana, then I highly recommend Twenty Chickens for a Saddle. I know it's outside the scope of this thread, but it's right next door :-)


message 29: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments Also, I recently read The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe and REALLY like it.


message 30: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I think Peter Godwin's newest book The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe has been officially published!


message 31: by Katy (new)

Katy | 81 comments Marieke wrote: "I think Peter Godwin's newest book The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe has been officially published!"

You're right. I've ordered it for my library! I can do that; it's actually my job! tee hee


message 32: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
you're so lucky. i think i will just have to order it for myself since i didn't win a copy through First Reads. :D


message 33: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Marieke wrote: "I think Peter Godwin's newest book The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe has been officially published!"

Yes, I've got it; it needs to jump the line on my TBR pile!
Okay, to really explain my problem with "Casting with a Fragile Thread" I have to quote part of it. The narrator and her sister have just had a long emotional interview with the black woman who is a family employee and was badly injured in the car crash that killed their sister. The woman is just out of hospital and they have visited the sister's grave with her and have walked her back to her house.
She has told them she used her own blanket to wrap their sister as she was dying.
Now the woman lays down on her bed. "...she lay down stiffly there and closed her eyes. I looked about for a covering but then remembered her blanket. "Sharon and I will get you another blanket tomorrow, I said quickly, and she closed her eyes and nodded. "Good night, Lucy," I said, not knowing what else to add, drawing the curtain a little and then stepping away, pulling her door shut behind us."
She didn't know what else to add? Like maybe walk the few hundred yards to the main house and get the woman a freaking blanket? Sorry, I don't usually have this kind of reaction; don't take my word for it, read the book.


message 34: by Chrissie (last edited May 25, 2011 12:35AM) (new)

Chrissie Wendy, is the Last Resort as good as Don't Let" Go to the Dogs Tonight? Why do you like it so much. I personally am more interested if its central focus is on his childhoood in Rhodesia than his adult life and reflective thinking concerning life in the US. Or is it just that the writing is special?


message 35: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments I thought "The Last Resort" was really excellent, but it is much more focused on adult life and thoughts rather than childhood memories.


message 36: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Andrea, thanks for the tip. I cannot get a grip on the focus of this book....


message 37: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments Chrissie wrote: "Wendy, is the Last Resort as good as Don't Let" Go to the Dogs Tonight? Why do you like it so much. I personally am more interested if its central focus is on his childhoood in Rhodesia than his ad..."

Chrissie -- I agree w/ Andrea's assessment. It is more focused on fairly recent events over the past 6-7 years so is more his perspective as an adult. Although focuses on more recent events, I thought he did a really good job explaining the economic meltdown and the contributing causes and what it has meant for those living there. If you haven't read Mukiwa by Godwin, then that is a good one from a child's perspective. I really want to read his new one The Fear soon too. I think the whole Rhodesia/Zimbabwe story is one of my favorite aspects of Africa and I love reading about it.


message 38: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Wendy thanks. I think I should not look for another book just like DLGTTDT. Repetition is boring.


message 39: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 660 comments Comment on "Don't Let's Go," my husband really didn't want to read a book by a white Zimbabwean; he just didn't want to read that point of view. But he picked the book up, read to the part about her little sister, and actually put it down with tears in his eyes! And he's not a teary kind of guy. It's just very effectively written.


message 40: by Dina (new)

Dina (dashboard_diva) | 14 comments Andrea wrote: "Comment on "Don't Let's Go," my husband really didn't want to read a book by a white Zimbabwean; he just didn't want to read that point of view. But he picked the book up, read to the part about h..."

Alexandra Fuller has the ability to cram an immense amount of sensory information into very few words. That's why I find her writing so rich and affecting. I just finished Scribbling the Cat. While I would not rate it as highly as Don't Let's Go to the Dogs, nevertheless I could not put it down.


message 41: by Mwanabibi (new)

Mwanabibi Sikamo | 11 comments Wow! This thread started a long time ago. I'm glad you have revived it though. I always read all your comments and thoughts about African writing but unfortunately rarely have the time to get involved.

I am actually from Zambia so its great to see that people are interested in writing from my country. I was listening to a radio programme where they spoke about the rich history of writing in Zambia, particularly in local languages. When I told my mum about it she was so excited. All those books where written in the 50's and 60's.

Unfortunately there are not many writers now. The excitement I heard from Zambians such as my mum who had had the chance to read books set in their own country made me envious. Anyway long story short, I am on a personal mission to discover more Zambian writing (I live in the UK).

I'm doing it through my blog so maybe I can let you guys know when I discover more. I have decided to expand the search to include other countries with lesser known traditions of writing (basically not West Africa, lol).

You may be interested to know that the current winner of the Penguin Prize for African writers is Zambian (also living in the UK). Ellen Banda-Aaku, her book 'Patchwork' is out at the end of the month.

I've also just read a book by Paula Leyden (Irish but lived in Zambia for a while). Its called 'The Butterfly Heart' and is a fictional account that deals with child marriage. Although it is technically a children's book. I found it really enjoyable with the integration of folk tales and often comical description of life as a Zambian child.

Hope i'm not overreaching but i'll be interviewing them both for my blog so if you are interested I can put up a link for you guys with the interviews and book reviews. www.uprootingthepumpkin.com if you want to visit. If you've read Song of Lawino by Okot P'bitek (a Ugandan writer) you may recognise the phrase uprooting the pumpkin. Song of Lawino is one of my favourite poems (once I got over having to do it in literature at school) i'd definitely recommend it! It deals with the transition from Colonisation to Independence but I felt that it was still relevant to people like me in the diaspora.

I've also been working on a project to find a way to get reading groups in the west to donate and discuss their books to those in Africa. I haven't figured out how i'll do it, but I really think its worth exploring. I think discussion of the book adds an essential element to the book giving process. I've noticed there is a thread about this so i'm off there to have a look!!

You guys were the inspiration behind that idea btw :)


message 42: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Mwanabibi, we believe in never-dead threads here! :D

I'm so glad you've joined our conversation and it's nice to hear we are inspiring you!

you've just reminded me i need to make a thread for the Penguin Prize...i'm trying hard to keep up with African writing prizes or anytime an African writer wins a prize.

of course we would love to see the interviews! and anytime an author wants to come talk with us here, we can arrange that. :D


message 43: by Mwanabibi (new)

Mwanabibi Sikamo | 11 comments Well, as it happens Marieke I'm on really good terms with Paula Leyden and I'm sure if we can convince her of what a dedicated group of readers we are she may come and talk to us. I mean its extra exposure for her and her book,right?

I'll see if I can discuss it with both her and Ellen.

It might even be interesting to speak to another person i'm in contact with who is a sort of expert in Zambian folk tales and even writes some himself if you guys are interested. Let me know what you think!

If you send me a message letting me know how it would work i'll see what I can do!

mwanabibi@gmail.com


message 44: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I really like your blog, Mwanabibi. a lot of our members here share your concern and interest in the same set of issues. i like how you decided to write about them from a personal vantage, rather than from a more distanced journalistic-type perspective. :D


message 45: by Mwanabibi (new)

Mwanabibi Sikamo | 11 comments Thank you for taking the time to visit it. I've never really thought about the fact that its not journalistic. I guess it makes sense,after all if people want 'news' they'll read a reputable newspaper.


message 46: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Mwanabibi wrote: "Thank you for taking the time to visit it. I've never really thought about the fact that its not journalistic. I guess it makes sense,after all if people want 'news' they'll read a reputable newspa..."

well, it is a form of journalism, but what i meant was, i like that you are not writing in a detached way. does that make sense?


message 47: by Mwanabibi (new)

Mwanabibi Sikamo | 11 comments Yes it does! I hope it makes people relate to what I'm saying.


message 48: by Yolanda (new)

Yolanda Ramos (yramosseventhsentinel) This thread is really old, but since I'm new to this group, thought I'd jump in anyway.

I'm Zimbabwean and my husband works at a huge ethanol plant in the middle of the bush. A place called Chisumbanje, approximately a 6 hour drive from the capital city Harare. Living conditions there are pretty basic and fortunately we have huge generators for when the power cuts come. Our house is situated on the banks of the Sabi River, which runs dry most of the time. We have a beautiful iguana who sometimes makes himself at home in our pool to escape the temperatures which can soar into the 40's C. Lots of cheeky monkeys scamper across our roof in search of food so we make sure to keep the doors closed and we have to watch out for snakes and scary looking spiders. I never walk barefoot - might stand on something venomous.

A pregnant cat also made herself at home in the garage. We named her Tickles and her babies Snookie and Pookie. Tickles guards her territory from other cats like a little tiger.

My second book in The Seventh Sentinel series, False Gods, is situated in Zimbabwe and South Africa.


message 49: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Hi Yolanda! Thank you for reviving this thread. I love that you have an iguana. I live in the US and we have a lot of squirrels running around. I sometimes watch them chasing each other through trees and wonder what it would be like if they were monkeys instead.


message 50: by Yolanda (new)

Yolanda Ramos (yramosseventhsentinel) Hi Marieke. Will try and take some pics of the iguana, but he's a slippery thing and scampers every time I get close. Will have to find name for him - I assume its a 'him'. Monkeys can be real pests and we cant grow anything in our garden because they eat it all. Growing up my brother brought a baby monkey home and we called him Sixpence. When he became an adult we had to release him back to the wild - a difficult thing to do as we all loved him and his antics, but his teeth grew too big and dangerous. Both vets and dentists (yes, my father took him to a few dentists!) all refused to remove Sixpence's teeth. We still talk about him. Monkeys make good pets until they grow up.


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