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 Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (c. 1988)

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PostSubject: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (c. 1988)   Sun 15 Feb 2009, 11:15 am

I was really excited to see this on the 1001 list because I love to read about Africa, especially from the people who were born and live there. Contemporary African Women authors are really hard to come by in the U.S., so I had to hunt this down through Amazon.

The books is about a young woman/teenager growing up in British occupied/"colonized" Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 60s ... this is Amazon's description: "Dangaremba's acclaimed first novel tells of the coming-of-age of Tambu, and through her, also offers a profound portrait of African society. In awarding Nervous Conditions the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa in 1989, the judges described the book as a beautiful and sensitive exploration of the plight and struggle of an African people.... A distinguishing feature of this work is its courageous honesty and devastating understatement."



Review to follow.

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PostSubject: Review of Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga   Tue 17 Feb 2009, 11:10 pm

Review of Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

I enjoyed this short book. It was a rare glimpse at a life few of us in the United States see or read about. The story, at its core, is one of Tambu, a young girl who scores one spot in a missionary school from the generosity of her Uncle (a missionary headmaster) and his family, after her brother dies (she takes his spot as there was only enough money for one child to be educated). By Tambu's family's standards (they are quite poor), her Uncle's family is very wealthy and she quickly assimilates into her new life and befriends her cousin Nyasha, recently returned from England, where she lived for 5 years. Tambu is a bright but very realistic young woman and we learn about both the joys and sorrows and limits of her culture, especially for women. Her sheer tenacity and intelligence gets her out of poverty, but there is a cost. She loses touch with her family in many important ways. Her story is juxtaposed with Nyasha's life, which is "caught between two worlds", i.e., too African for the English and too English for the Africans. It is a sad, but sometimes hopeful story of two cultures clashing in 1960s Rhodesia, where race relations were strained at best (and remain so today per the Interview at the end of the novel). I enjoyed this book mostly for how much I learned about the people and Zimbabwe during that time. However, there is no discernable plot and the novel wanders all over the place. Some characters who are interesting come and go in a few pages. So I think it could have been developed more. But overall, Tambu is a great, strong young woman and I liked reading her story even if it was rather disjointed. I believe the author wrote a sequel to this novel and I would be interested in tracking it down to find out what happens to Tambu.

3 of 5 Stars
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