Tsitsi Dangarembga: TOP TEN BOOKS


“The stories I want to tell are Zimbabwean stories,” the novelist and film-maker Tsitsi Dangarembga told The Independent newspaper in a recent interview. “I do find myself committed to the traumas and the struggles and the possibilities that people have here. And it makes me think about how I would waste my life if I went somewhere where I had no relevance.” Nominated for this year’s Booker Prize for her novel, This Mournable Body, Dangarembga has never been more relevant, situated at the center of a compelling, urgent cultural movement of African artists centering Africa in their work, and frequently paying the price for it. In July, just days after finding out she was on the Booker longlist, Dangarembga was arrested in Harare as part of a crackdown on anti-corruption demonstrations, sparking calls for her release from writers including Kazuo Ishiguro, Carol Ann Duffy, and Philippe Sands, the president of English PEN. The daughter of teachers at a mission school, Dangarembga spent much of her childhood in Britain, before returning to newly-independent Zimbabwe to study psychology. It was there she began to write her debut novel, Nervous Conditions, set in 1960s and ‘70s Rhodesia, eventually submitting it to The Women’s Press, the pioneering British publishing house that had published Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Nervous Conditions would go on to win the 1990 Commonwealth Writers Prize, and was named by the BBC in 2018 as one of the 100 books which have shaped the world. The Mournable Body reunites readers with Tambudzai, the central character of Nervous Conditions and its 2006 sequel, The Book of Not, only older now, her circumstances much reduced, an embodiment of the souring of Zimbabwe’s post-colonial optimism. 

Below are Tsitsi Dangarembga ‘s favorite books, available to purchase individually or as a set.


A Man Who is Not a Man

Thando Mgqolozana 
This sensitive heart-breaking novel tells the story of a young man who leaves his no good father's Cape Town abode to travel back to his mother’s Xhosa village where he is made to undergo initiation. This look from within the culture at the damage young men's initiation can do is immensely courageous and honest.
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An Image in a Mirror

Ijangolet S. Ogwang
This wonderfully charming coming of age novel explores national differences through the lens of teenage twin girls, one adopted in South Africa and one who remains behind with the girls mother in Uganda. In gentle, patient prose, Ogwang dissects the commonalities which override class differences amongst women in contemporary Africa.

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House of Stone

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Novuyo Tshuma's House of Stone tells the story of the 1980s Zimbabwean genocide of the people of Matabeleland in the south of the country with passion and irtuosity. A young man pesters his adoptive family to reveal his father's identity, until the terrible truth of his conception in an act of brutality during the ethnic cleansing is revealed.
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Azotus: The Kingdom

Shadreck Chikoti
A quietly compelling gem of African speculative fiction. Published in 2015 before the Covid-19 pandemic, it describes how the human need to reach out and connect triumphs in a world in which all human contact is banned or strictly controlled.

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The Theory of Flight

Siphiwe Ndlovu
This is the delightfully whimsical tale of a Dolly Parton look alike called Genie. The many ways Genie loses, loves and wins in her home town where the effects of a brutal genocide are still felt and where HIV devastates are described with dazzling, delicate magic.
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There Was a Country

Chinua Achebe 
This forthright yet carefully considered memoir dissects the 1960s Biafran secession war from Nigeria with a precision informed by service as one of the protagonists in the conflict. The international interests which contributed to the carnage are exposed in a manner which reveals how similar interests operate to devastating effect in many African nation-states.
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Ways of Dying

Zakes Mda
Set in the violence of the transition from apartheid, Ways of Dying tells the story a South African city's first professional mourner, Toloki, who reunites with the flame of his youth who arrives in town from the village. Mda celebrates the healing power of tenderness and love in this triumphant, wonderfully moving work.
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Young Blood

Sifiso Mzob
In this fast-paced coming of age novel, talented mechanic Sipho believes he doesn't have the intelligence to do well at school and drops out. Enticed by the promise of easy money and thrills, he becomes a gang member in a Durban township. The soul of a young south African man is laid bare as Sipho finds his way forward to an honest life.
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The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko

Jestina Mukoko
A growing body of literature concerned with the atrocities of the Matabeleland Genocide in Zimbabwe often obscures the fact that there is little writing from within the country dealing with ZanuPF acts of terror on citizens outside Matabeleland. In this brave memoir former broadcast journalist Jestina Mukoko relates her 2008 kidnapping from her Harare home at the crack of dawn, and her subsequent illegal detention and torture at the hands of the Zimbabwean state.
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Small Country

Gaël Faye
Gaël Faye paints a disturbing picture of the way in which the 1990s genocide in Rwanda stretched its tentacles out into neighbouring Burundi, disrupting 11-year old Gabriel's privileged life in an upmarket suburb of the country's capital city.  It is a novel of the pernicious social breakdown without relief which besets too many African states.
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