Nervous Conditions

[Read] ➲ Nervous Conditions By Tsitsi Dangarembga – A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rig A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten Africa's Best books of the th Century this novel brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rights An extraordinarily well crafted work this book is a work of vision Through its deft negotiation of race class gender and cultural change it dramatizes the 'nervousness' of the 'postcolonial' conditions that bedevil us still In Tambu and the women of her family we African women see ourselves whether at home or displaced doing daily battle with our changing world with a mixture of tenacity bewilderment and grace.Nervous Conditions

Spent part of her childhood in England She began her education there but concluded her A levels in a missionary school back home in the town of Mutare She later studied medicine at Cambridge University but became homesick and returned home as Zimbabwe's black majority rule began in She took up psychology at the University of Zimbabwe of whose drama group she was a member She also held.

Paperback  ì Nervous Conditions PDF ò
  • Paperback
  • 204 pages
  • Nervous Conditions
  • Tsitsi Dangarembga
  • English
  • 01 June 2016
  • 9781580051347

10 thoughts on “Nervous Conditions

  1. says:

    Last year I discovered the writing of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Writing contemporary accounts of Nigerians in both Africa and in the United States and England Adichie has becoming a leading African feminist voice Before Adichie thirty years ago Tsitsi Dangarembga attempted to assert rights for African women in both her writing and film making Needing an African classic for my classics bingo this year I decided upon Dangarembga's debut autobiographical novel Nervous Conditions which is influential enough to be included in the book 500 Great Books by Women by Erica Baumeister Reading through the books in this anthology is a personal ongoing challenge of mine so I was happy to immerse myself in Dangarembga's workFrom Zimbabwe and educated in Germany Dangarembga wanted to expose her children to Africa and returned as an adult She bases the story in this novel on her own upbringing and it is evident from the opening pages Readers meet Tambudzai a precocious rural African girl who has no future other than living on a Rhodesian homestead with her family until she marries Her uncle Babamukara decided his future at age nine when he started school and reached the top of class Later on a scholarship he attended secondary school and university in South Africa and later England His wife Maiguru has been eually educated and through their education the couple become the headmaster and head mistress at a prestigious missionary school in central Rhodesia It is through this education that Babamukara attempts to uplift his entire family so that they are viewed as the most prestigious members or Rhodesian society It is in this regard that he sponsors the education of Tambudzai's brother Nhambo As the eldest sibling and only boy the future hinges on Nhambo to use education to uplift his family away from their primitive conditionsLike Babamukara's children Nyasha and Chido who have been educated in England and at the missionary school for their entire lives Nhambo develops a sense of arrogance towards his family especially toward his younger sisters reminding them that they are girls and that the homestead is their future Then through Tambudzai's narration Dambarembga writes of the opportunity that Tambudzai gains At age fourteen tragedy strikes at the mission Nhambo develops the mumps and dies in mere days The mother is beside herself even though is less developed societies the death of one's children is commonplace Babamukara decides to sponsor Tambudzai's education because he feels that the family still needs someone to lift it out of poverty As a result Tambu moves into her uncle and aunt's care away from the homestead and poverty and into a luxurious lifeAs in many coming of age books Nervous Conditions is not without conflict Tambudzai is taken under Nyasha's wing and views firsthand how life in England has made her arrogant and vows not to repeat this behavior Babamukara praises Tambudzai as a model child and wishes that his own daughter would follow in suit Nyasha unfortunately by the time she reaches puberty is English than African and some of her disdain for primitive Africa has rubbed off on Tambudzai While Tambudzai still loves her family and wishes her sisters the best she finds it harder and harder to return to the homestead with each passing vacation There is no electricity or plumbing or books and life on the Rhodesian plane has become tougher to face Tambudzai finds faults in both of her parents and wish that they would adhere to her uncle's example of using education as a means of bettering oneself in society Yet her father is the laziest member in his family and her mother having had no education and married since age fifteen have no future ahead of them Tambudzai does not forget the upbringing that she came from but on her later visits home she vows to achieve as much education as possible for a female from her era in order to lift her family out of its primitive conditions once and for allIn the past few years I have not enjoyed coming of age books I find as the protagonists are the age of my children that I suffer from a generation gap in my reading During the last few months I have read uality coming of age fiction offering me hope for the genre moving forward Tsitsi Dangarembga is an example of how education has lifted her out of poverty Primitive lifestyles and few rights for women are still issues facing Africans today so when Nervous Conditions was first published in 1988 the work was considered groundbreaking Dangarembga has paved the way so that authors like Adichie have a platform today and for that I feel privileged to have had read her work In recent years she has written two follow up novels so readers see where education has taken Tambudzai and I look forward to following her on her journey through life45 stars

  2. says:

    Identity is a powerful concept But how does one establish such a thing? Conventionally it develops from childhood due to an association with home and place But what happens if your home is changing? What happen if you’re taken away from that home? Indeed if you are forced to accept another culture’s ways and customs who is the “you” that is left? What nationality do you become? These are the uestion Tambu has to ask herself She’s a young black girl living in a small rural improvised village in postcolonial Rhodesia She initially believes that her ticket to self improvement is through education However the only education available is the white man’s education She learns to speak English and eventually she looks back on her origins with an air of indifference and woe Not as much as her brother did but to a degree that considers them underdeveloped and primitive Again this is the white man’s education coming through She has opportunities afforded to few but is this a good thing if she comes to scorn her origins? It’s bad enough when a country gets colonized but when the people do as well That’s the end really that’s the end She like her cousin Nyasha becomes a creature of flux a hybrid a person that walks between worlds and cultures without a true home She can no longer fit in with her kin at the village; her intellect has gone beyond that But she cannot fit into the white man’s world because she is black She is too white to be black and to black to be white Franz Fanon’s Black Skins White Masks arguments become thematic here; he argued that to accept the white man’s culture is to allow the African heritage to be destroyed It in essence leaves the black man wearing a white mask As well as being a black person Tambu is also a woman in an incredibly misogynistic society She has to deal with the dominating nature of the patriarchal culture and the oppression associated with it So life for Tambu is rather shit because everyone treats her like shit Here’s some terrible advice she receives when she is young Can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother Learn to cook and clean Grow vegetables This is such a strong story with such a strong message In essence it’s a response to Achebe’s Things Fall Apart which is a response to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness So that’s lots of responses What the author is trying to portray in a persuasive and compelling manner is the voice of the colonised female the voice of her ancestors and the effects on the everyday life of one living in postcolonial Africa Achebe’s protagonist was incredibly misogynistic; he beats women down In this Tambu has a chance to prove her worth in such a male dominated society Her awakening does come very late in the novel; it takes her a long time to realise the absurdity of her situationcondition and it does eventually completely change her The novel is narrated retrospectively so we do know it’s coming but it’s still great to see her find her voice and become an empowered women By the end she develops the will to speak out and stand up for what she believes in Tambu comes to hate the men of her family; she comes to hate every aspect of her situation she becomes hardened and convinced not to conform to the white man’s way She’s still got a lot of prejudice to wade through before the world accepts her but I feel like she will get there You can't go on all the time being whatever’s necessary You've got to have some conviction and I’m convinced I don't want to be anyone’s underdog This is a great coming of age story

  3. says:

    uietly unobtrusively and extremely fitfully something in my mind began to assert itself to uestion things and refuse to be brainwashed bringing me to this time when I can set down this story It was a long process for me that process of expansion Thus ends the novel which started with the narrator's confession that she was not sorry when her brother died The painful process of expansion which made Tambu's story possible was blocked for many years blocked by the patriarchal system which provided education for men and exploited women's physical labour at homeWhen her brother dies Tambu is allowed reluctantly to take his place Brainwashed to believe in her own inferiority she enters the world of education at her godlike patriarchal uncle's mission school and she defers to his charismatic omnipotent rule But as she gets closer to her cousin Nyasha she realises that there are other ways to perceive the world once you have a comparison and a choice And she sees the power of women underneath the rule of ridiculously pompous men And recognising one's own strength is the first step to shake off injusticeThe victimisation I saw was universal It didn't depend on poverty on lack of education or on tradition It didn't depend on any of the things I had thought it depended on Men took it everywhere with them But what I didn't like was the way all the conflicts came back to this uestion of femaleness Femaleness as opposed to and inferior to malenessTambu would have been surprised to discover how universal it REALLY is that conflict she hates It goes beyond the uestion of race and colonialism and Christian versus tribe rites You find it in highly educated modern and over privileged families in liberal democracies Men take it everywhere with themBut of course the situation is extreme if you are a young sensible and gifted girl in the clashing worlds of Christian bigotry and tribal patriarchy As a woman you are barely human And you have to learn to play your cards well to survive in a society designed for and by men You have to know which fights to pick and which ones to drop for your own safety Tambu and Nyasha learn to navigate the dominance of maleness and whiteness while they grow up side by side but it is not without major sacrifices Tambu has to let go of her broken mother and force her own way in order to make a change for herself Nyasha a hybrid schooled in England fights for her right to be an eual to men and almost dies in the process while taking out the punishment on herself as she develops bulimia and anorexia only to be told by a white psychiatrist that Africans don't have that kind of illnessThe two girls support each other with the help of their female relatives and encourage each other to stay on the path of searching for their own identity rather than to assimilate with Christian or tribal oppression In the most difficult times education is not only a means to reach independence but also a soothing medicine for repeatedly broken hearts and willsMost importantly most wonderfully there was the library big bright walled in glassThis novel should be reuired reading for the #metoo generation It is as powerful as Things Fall Apart but it adds the experience of the hidden world of women An inspiration on so many levels I strongly recommend it to the world of today

  4. says:

    This was voted as one of the best African books of the twentieth century Written in the late 1980s it is set in what was then Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe in the 1960s and 1970s It is actually the first of a trilogy; the third part of which has just been published this year This Mournable Body it has been longlisted for the Booker Prize Dangarembga has also just been arrested for protesting against corruption in Zimbabwe This novel is partly autobiographical The title is taken from Sartre’s introduction to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth Colonialism poverty and gender are the key themes in the novel The main protagonist is a young girl called Tambu She only gets to go to school because her older brother has died As the male child he was the one to be educated The opening sentence “I was not sorry when my brother died” grabs the attention of the reader Tambu leaves her own home and parents to live with her uncle Babamukuru and his family at a mission station where she goes to school Her relationship with her cousin Nyasha is central in showing a different set of issues relating to gender and oppression Men and women have their place and the novel focusses on the different reactions of the various female characters The clash of cultures particularly affects Nyasha She has spent some time in England and is struggling with her African identity and her father’s very traditional concept of what she should be As she says to Tambu “I’m not one of them but I’m not one of you” Tambu comes to her own conclusions“The victimisation I saw was universal It didn’t depend on poverty on lack on education or on tradition It didn’t depend on any of the things I had thought it depended on Men took it everywhere with them Even heroes like Babamukuru did it And that was the problem But was I didn’t like was the way all the conflicts came back to this uestion of femaleness Femaleness as opposed and inferior to maleness”Tambu’s mother sees things in a different way and resents the way her children are taken from her to be educated and are not available to help with the housework and crops“And these days it is worse with the poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other Aiwa What will help you my child is to learn to carry your burdens with strength”Tambu herself does well at her studies and wins a scholarship to a mostly white college run by nuns “For was I – I Tambudzai lately of the mission and before that the homestead – was I Tambudzai so recently a peasant was I not entering as I had promised myself I would a world where burdens lightened with every step soon to disappear altogether? I had an idea that this would happen as I passed through the school gates those gates that would declare me a young lady a member of the Young Ladies College of the Sacred Heart I was impatient to get to those gates”Although at the very end of the novel Tambu is reassessing her views“For I was beginning to have a suspicion no than the seed of a suspicion that I had been too eager to leave the homestead and embrace the ‘Englishness’ of the mission; and after that the concentrated ‘Englishness’ of Sacred Heart The suspicion remained for a few days during which time it transformed itself into guilt and then I had nightmares”Nyasha is the one who sees things clearly as she battles with an eating disorder and rebels against her parents“It’s not their fault They did it to them too You know they did’ she whispered ‘To both of them but especially to him They put him through it all But it’s not his fault he’s good’ Her voice took on a Rhodesian accent ‘He’s a good boy a good munt A bloody good kaffir’ she informed in sneering sarcastic tones Then she was whispering again ‘Why do they do it Tambu’ she hissed bitterly her face contorting with rage ‘to me and to you and to him? Do you see what they’ve done? They’ve taken us away”This is a very good coming of age story with strong characters all of whom are well rounded and human with their own faults The real villains are colonialism and patriarchy Tambu’s journey is telling and I think I will be reading the rest of the trilogy

  5. says:

    It uses the old method popular among novelists of highlighting the prevalent social injustice and conditions through a shocking event you know how Medea's killing her children reflected on patriarchy of her time when 'Beloved's heroine kills her child it reflected on slavery Camus' Outsider's narrator failed to feel any grief for his mother's loss reflecting the way how people are unable to feel a sense of belonging to our surroundings and so on Before I had read Phaedra I thought her incestual intentions reflected on the unjust assumption where a woman expected to remain happily married to a man twice her age and take a man her own age as her stepson Here the event disclosed in the very first sentence is narrator's then a little girl inability to feel any remorse on the accidental death of her brother and reflects on uneual treatment of girl and boy childOne of the first African feminist novels what at first seems like a coming of age novel of a girl in Zimbawe expands to contain stories of other women around her At one point the narrator points how the women are unable to react to a situation as they wish to and feel morally obliged to because the identity that the society and culture have imposed on them and which they have come to completely identify themselves with expects them to stay silentIt is unfortunate indeed to think of families where only one child would be able to get the education but to resist a better life style choice just because it seems western culture To be honest I'm not a big fan of those words 'culture' and 'identity'; the only purpose they seem to serve is to confuse people and make them avoiding taking choices which will help them to live their lives to fullest I think it is foolish not to make a life style choice just because the community you identify with doesn't normally make such choice or its members aren't allowed toAnd culture except for really first civilizations bronze age iron age; great civilizations that were also really productive in sciences and arts have only shown up only in places where people have been willing to learn from different cultures Romans were willing to learn Greek Philosophies Ottoman empire learned sciences and philosophies both from Romans and Indians Mughals at their best Akbar Shah Jahan Jahangir had artists from every living culture in their courtrooms renaissance artists were willing to adopt dead civilizations and gods of Greece Even colonial empires were in time of their rise translating literature of their colonies Russia's great literary periods were at best when authors like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy were studying ideas from around the world and ended slowly when they raised the Iron curtain USA's first became world power when it was willing to accept migrants from around the world More recently the Latin American literary boom was the result of works by authors who refuse to limit their inspirations to Latin America It thus seems foolish to denounce something just because it wasn't first created or done in the country Okay now some ramblings on India there is nothing about the book itselfThe problem of these confusing words is particularly relevant to India where there is always a talk of saving Aryan Hindu and Indian culture There is a fallacious reasoning that just because something is being done for centuries we should continue to do it Another very stupid belief is older is somehow better So Vedas are superior because they come earlier than other books and culture; being first ancestors they deserve to be followed But if you go along this chain of reasoning we should rather be living on trees because we lived on trees even before we wrote books and monkeys are our real ancestors Also think of it the practise of Sati was defended on cultural reasons IMO culture should not be thought of as a guide to direct our future but in terms of footsteps left behind by societyMoreover all this talk about saving culture is always raised when it is a uestion of maintaining some sort of maintaining some sort of injustice typical examples include the protests against reservations for SCST when they were first made protests against Hindu marriage act because it divided property eually between all heirs rather than merely male heirs and legalized divorces and now there are similar protests against a similar reform law for Muslims Same thing with those goon attacks on pubs Have you ever wondered what part of pub culture is not Indian? A pub is just a public drinking place and such public drinking places were always there in India What are called pubs are merely fashionable It isn't drinking itself these culture protectionists are against or they would have attacked alcohol factories It is not men getting drunk or getting drunk in public they are against again those things that has always been done in India You might for once think their problem is presence women at those places but wrong the problem is not the fact of the presence of women itself but who those women are You see these goons maintain a list of actions that a good man can do but good women can't And so okay this lecture just got boring and I feel sleepy

  6. says:

    We first meet Tambudzai or Tambu as she is commonly called as she talks about her brother I was not sorry when my brother died Nor am I apologising for my callousness my lack of feeling For it is not that at all I feel many things these days much than I was able to feel in the days when I was young and my brother died and there are reasons for this than the mere conseuences of age p 1From this opening introducing us to thirteen year old Tambu we enter the world of a young girl on the brink of becoming a young woman in a patriarchal African society of the late 1960s not far removed from colonial times where she and all of the women around her nervously await the decisions of the highest male in the family as to their future For Tambu wants to go to school But her older brother her only brother will be the one educated for she is after all femaleThus part of the meaning of the opening sentence Would she now have a chance? Tambu speaks to the reader of all she encounters at home in the run down homestead of her dreams of an education at the Mission School the reality of her extended family as she begins to understand the hierarchical structures around her and where she fits or doesn't The family patriarch her uncle seems god like to her with his English education and degrees and power at the school He is the family decision makerLife is full of uestions that can't be asked and answers that are elusive All Tambu knows is that she loves learning and striving for something beyond what she has had And as she slowly grasps and understanding of her place she sees that she is just one of the many women she knows who are struggling with life that the usual goals of a little learning and early marriage are not her goals How can I describe the sensations that swamped me when Babamukuru started his car with me in the front seat beside him on the day I left home? It was relief but than that It was than excitement and anticipation What I experienced that day was a short cut a rerouting of everything I had ever defined as me into fast lanes that would speedily lead me to my destination There was no room for what I left behind My father as affably shallowly agreeable as ever was insignificant My mother my anxious mother was no than another piece of surplus scenery to be maintained of course to be maintained but all the same superfluous an obstacle in the path of my departure p 58Tambu is ready to leave it all behind for the shining world ahead But this new world holds a multitude of everyday complexities that add to her nervousness 'Sit down my child' invited Babamukuru cordially as I tiptoed into the living room Actually I walked in normally placing my whole foot on the floor but it felt like tiptoeing so respectful was my gait 'On the seat my child on the seat' he added as I sank humbly to the carpet in the corner next to the doorway I stood up but hesitated not knowing where to sit It was a complex problem Babamukuru was sitting in his armchairwhile Maiguru sat at one end of the sofa There was room on the sofa between Maiguru and Babmukuru's chair as well as an unoccupied armchair beside Babamukuru but I could not take those seats since it would not do to sit so disrespectfully close to my uncle p 87Thankfully there was another chair The levels of behavior Tambu worked to maintain every day were part of the general nervous condition that builds higher in some than in others Some women are seen striving for independence in small individual ways while others may break under an unrelenting system She slowly begins to see that women around her even the highly educated Maiguru lose out in this system 'Your uncle wouldn't be able to do half the things he does if I didn't work as well' 'You must earn a lot of money' I breathed in awe My aunt laughed and said she never received her salary I was aghast 'What happens to your money? The money that you earn Does the government take it?' 'You could say that' my aunt laughed forcing herself to be merry again but not succeeding 'What it isto have to choose between self and security When I was in England I glimpsed for a little while the things I could have been the things I could have done if if if things were different But there was Babawa Chido and the children and the family As for me no one even thinks about the things I gave up' p 103Tambu is observing relationships and realities especially that between men and women and coming to the realization that women all around her and herself included were victims of the male's assumed superiority The victimisation I saw was universal It didn't depend on poverty on lack of education or on tradition It didn't depend on any of the things I had thought it depended on Men took it everywhere with them Even heroes like Babamukuru did it And that was the problem what I didn't like was the way all the conflicts came back to this uestion of femaleness Femaleness as opposed and inferior to maleness p 118This is an exciting book to read and an important book too highlighting as it does important social issues of a country I wish to understand better while also dealing with human issues that affect us all Using the coming of age form Dangarembga has created a novel that reveals teaches and inspires It has become a classic in Africa and really should be well known world wideInitially rated 4 to 45 but now after thinking about the book as I wrote I am changing the rating to 5

  7. says:

    I'd never even heard of this book although it is an acknowledged classic of African lit until the final volume of the trilogy of which this is the first part was nominated for this year's Booker Prize Since that final volume has NOT been universally loved I debated whether I wanted to spend the time to read the first two books but am glad I decided in the affirmative as this was an unexpected delight Since I had determined that I would ALSO have to read all three of Mantel's Cromwell trilogy too it felt like tacit racism to deny this author the same courtesyrespect I have not always gotten along well with other of the African Booker nominees Bulawayo Obioma since I often found it difficult to relate to cultures and experiences so far afield of my own; although that is also operative here there is something universal in Dangarembga's writing and characters that helped me surmount that problem The book is surprisingly immersive uick paced and somewhat Dickensian in its depiction of a young Rhodesian girl attempting to overcome the triple handicaps of being female black and poor the book takes place in the late 60's so the country was not yet Zimbabwe One roots for Tambu to overcome these obstacles and I'm eager to see where her journey takes her in volume 2 and 3 My main complaint is the lack of a glossary and character list in this first volume but that has been taken care of in book two

  8. says:

    For though the event of my brother’s passing and the events of my story cannot be separated my story is not after all about death but about my escape and Lucia’s; about my mother’s and Maiguru’s entrapment; and about Nyasha’s rebellion Nyasha far minded and isolated my uncle’s daughter whose rebellion may not in the end have been successful I was thirteen years old when my brother died It happened in 1968 I read this book due to it being the first of a trilogy the third of which “This Mournable Body” is now shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize I must confess it is not a novel I had heard of previously but I found it a fascinating story – with our first person narrator growing up in late 60searly 70s Southern Rhodesia in the post UDI period There are plenty of detailed summaries of the plot and academic studies and essays on the book which explain and discuss it much better than I could manageBut a few thoughts The opening line “I was not sorry when my brother died Nor am I apologising for my callousness as you may define it my lack of feeling” reminded me of one of the other Booker longlisted books “Burnt Sugar” another post colonial novel in some ways and its “I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure”Interestingly if anything that mother daughter situation is reversed here Tambu's mother could probably say my daughter's pleasuresuccess has never given me anything other than miseryjealousy her mother not even trying to hide her disdain for Tambu's embrace of Western education and as she sees it rejection of her family and tribal traditionI found the character of Nyasha fascinating and how the same Anglicisation which leads her to largely reject Shona for English and chafe against the traditional tribal culture of deference patriarchy and family relations also leads her to a pro Africananti colonialism position Her Western exposure to diet and body shape in 1960s Britain also seems a factor in her eating disorders – and I think Nyasha herself is the victim of the Nervous Condition of the native under the burden of colonialism which gives the book its title from Sartre’s introduction to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth ”The status of “native” is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the settler among colonised people with their consent’” Although interestingly one already gets the idea that it will be Tambu who suffers the longer lasting conseuences in later booksI found it fascinating how over time Tambu realises that she is at the intersection of black female and poor “the poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other” an intersection which normally implies uneducated but which she has the rare opportunity to break from – and that at different times different aspects of this come to the foreAt first she is convinced the issue is poverty My mother said being black was a burden because it made you poor but Babamukuru was not poor My mother said being a woman was a burden because you had to bear children and look after them and the husband But I did not think this was true Maiguru was well looked after by Babamukuru Then for much of the book being female and a victim of patriarchy starting with her brother's attitude and hence her lack of mourning The victimisation I saw was universal It didn’t depend on poverty on lack of education or on tradition It didn’t depend on any of the things I had thought it depended on Men took it everywhere with them In both cases though she sees education as the real issue and through a combination of effort fortune her brother's demise her Uncle's family obligations academic prowess and charity she achieves a place at the country's leading school a mixed race convent with its segregated dorms and where we but perhaps not her sense that race will be the real limiting factorOverall I can see why this book is regarded as a classic of African literature and I look forward to exploring the rest of the trilogy uietly unobtrusively and extremely fitfully something in my mind began to assert itself to uestion things and refuse to be brainwashed bringing me to this time when I can set down this story It was a long and painful process for me that process of expansion It was a process whose events stretched over many years and would fill another volume but the story I have told here is my own story the story of four women whom I loved and our men this story is how it all began

  9. says:

    This book takes its title and epigraph from an introduction to The Wretched of the Earth which I've been reading slowly for several weeks It was really wonderful to read this partly as an illustration of some of Fanon's ideas and as a female perspective that answers and critiues Fanon's highly male centric account of the colonised subjectBut forget every other book and every other author – from the incendiary opening sentence to the fraught and nervous close this story held me heart and soul 14 year old Tambudzai is my ideal narrator sharp sensible caring social and respectful but independent of mind naïve but uick to learn occasionally daunted or overshadowed but considered in her responses Despite the ominous and shocking beginning she emerges in contrast to her brother as a sympathetic character; unlike him she values her local community and natural environment and works hard on the farm and in the house with her parents and siblings the poorest branch of the extended family She is thoughtful towards her mother appreciative of her helpful younger sister caring for the toddler Her academic talents are eual to her strong motivation to become educated like her wealthier uncle and aunt but circumstances and family members initially thwart her ambitionsIf this sounds like other coming of age tales then maybe it is but aside from being movingly and believeably told it's rich in on point analysis and insight never spelled out but always elegantly demonstrated For example Tambu tells at some length and amusingly how her brother Nhamo 'forgot' how to speak Shona after spending time living with their uncle and studying at the mission schoolA few words escaped haltingly ungrammatically and strangely accented when he spoke to my mother but he did not speak to her very often any He talked most fluently with my father They had long conversations in English which Nhamo broke into small irregular syllables and which my father chopped into smaller and even rougher phonemes Father was pleased with Nhamo's command of the English language He said it was the first step in the family's emancipation since we could all improve our language by practising on Nhamo But he was the only one who was impressed by this inexplicable state my brother had developed The rest of us spoke to Nhamo in Shona to which when he did answer he answered in English making a point of speaking slowly deliberately enunciating each syllable clearly so that we could understand This restricted communication to mundane insignificant mattersBut the situation was not entirely hopeless When a significant issue did arise so that it was necessary to discuss matters in depth Nhamo's Shona – grammar vocabulary accent and all – would miraculously return for the duration of the discussionI have included this lengthy uotation because I wanted to show how subtly Tsitsi Dangarembga uses a passage like this to place each person in relation to the issue at hand – this techniue is consistently used to develop characters relationships social positions and the different effects interaction with colonial ideologies has on all of them Sense of place is developed lovingly yet without lengthy description Tambu's grounded benefit of hindsight no nonsense narration somehow captures every atmosphere perfectly with control of pacing sentence length dialogue and emotional commentary Changes of scene make this carefully constructed ambiance apparent – for example when a teacher takes Tambu to town in his car The journey though dreamlike and extraordinary is atmospherically contiguous with the walk from the homestead to the village but the town is jarring The scene in the town where Tambu encounters white people made me laugh out loud so incisively does it expose the whites' ignorance and prejudicesTambu's relationship with and admiration for her cousin Nyasha reminded me of My Brilliant Friend and Wench – both of which have a close female friendship in which the less extraordinary one of the pair is the viewpoint character As I reflected about Wench this is a good strategy for relateability because admiring a charismatic person is a familiar experience than being one Further to this in the interview at the end of this edition Tsitsi Dangarembga shares that she chose to tell the story from Tambudzai's viewpoint rather than that of Nyasha daughter of that family's most privileged patriarch so that people would be able to relate to it people in the area of Zimbabwe who live like Tambu This reveals that Tsitsi Dangarembga did not write this novel in or for the white gaze as Kwame Anthony Appiah also points out in the introduction Of course I implacably embody that gaze however much I want and work? to abolish whiteness but I still strongly feel that the story is all the effective and enjoyable for not being styled for a white audience even though I didn't always understand the honorifics and everyday Shona words scattered aroundNyasha though materially privileged and extremely intelligent is in the most literal nervous condition of all Her early life experience of living in England has made her into a 'hybrid' and she no longer fits in with her family or school friends She calls her experiences in England 'exposure' which suggests something traumatic and damaging Her problem is clearly not merely an excess of knowledge and it goes beyond a shift in beliefs – she is in a state of dis ease with her own self holding contractory desires that threaten to tear her apart But Dangarembga does not present the nervous conditions that affect Nyasha and Nhamo as inevitable Nyasha fights towards a subjecthood she can survive and while Tambu is grateful for some aspects of Nyasha's guidance she is able to remain critical of some of her cousin's actions and ideas and she resists the influences that Nhamo succumbed to Nyasha's brother Chido also seems to have retained a degree of balance His explanation of how he got into a pretigious mixed black and white school is every bit as acute in its analysis of coloniser colonised relations as anything in Fanon The narrative is thoroughly female centred and highly critical of the patriarchal ordering of society Tambu is furious with her brother for exploiting his power over his sisters to be lazy for example Yet the situation is complex with her aunt Maiguruhighly educated wife of the rich uncle Mukoma known to Tambu as Babamukuru Tambu admires her uncle her family's head and benefactor so intensely that she continually rationalises his treatment of Maiguru to make it seem acceptable and correct Other women characters extend the range of perspectives strategies of accommodation or resistance and complexity of the social fabric that Dangarembga shows us I think the characterisation is so acute throughout because it's relational each person comes to life in her or his response and relation to others In this light Tambu's experience of finding subjectivity through many separations is both liberating and unsettling

  10. says:

    This is one of those books I went into reading not knowing anything about it other than Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean author I've known about the book's existence for a while have even picked it before; but I have to admit the title itself has always prevented me from reading it There's not really a good reason for that But you know how sometimes you're drawn to a certain shirt because the color appeals to your eyes? Or you're turned off by a certain song because there's a chord that really bugs the shit out of you? I have experiences like that with books something about a title can really work for me and I'll read the shit out of it Or alternatively a title can strike feel discordantThis is one of those titlesI think the word nervous in the title makes me well nervous I can be a somewhat anxious person by nature and so over the last year or so and while that's something I'm working on keeping under control I try not to indulge in things that might make me extra nervous Like reading a book with the word nervous in the titleLaugh at me if you will it's okayBut now that I've read the book I am so glad I did The first couple chapters were a bit slow They were engaging enough to make me want to keep reading but I wasn't feeling the story yet I feel now that was purposeful Once I made it through the first couple of chapters I realized that I the reader was growing alongside Tambu the narrator of this story This is Tambu's story written years later reflecting on when she was first 9 years old at the end of the SixtiesThe first sentence packs a punch and I wanted to know about that and those circumstances but I have to admit that the resolution of that was anticlimactic and not terribly interesting after all The real meat of the story is the rest of what happens Tambu leaving her home and going to live with her uncle and his family in a mission her relationship with them with her cousin Nyasha with whom she shares a room at the mission her relationship with herself and her family back home It's all very well done and I feel the story writing only gets stronger as the story progressesWhat I was surprised by was just how little Dangarembga shied away from discussing some really sensitive matters A lot of stories along these lines especially of the coming of age sort can sort of sidestep the major issues or refer to them in a terribly subtle way letting the reader work things out for themselves But here Dangarembga holds a mirror up to some serious issues and calls them out for what they are especially race and prejudice colonialism and feminismOne of my favorite parts of the book involves a conversation Tambu has early on with her mother about the burden of being not only black but also a woman and this theme carries on throughout the whole story That early conversation deeply affects Tambu and I wonder now if her mother phrased things the way she did in order to spark a little fire under Tambu's ass so she would be inspired to create a different existence for herself than what was expected of her as an African girlThe story is powerful and short I know there is a seuel though it seems to be even harder to get my paws on than this one was which is hard to believe since out of all the libraries in Pittsburgh there is literally only one copy of this book I'm surprised that this isn't reuired reading in school particularly in my own education I would have expected this would have ranked highly on reuired reading for me in college but somehow it was notI want people to read this book

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