ZenZele A Letter for My Daughter
Chapter 1 of ZenZele starts with a long list of African vocabulary. Some of the words are really interesting. When you start reading the book you realize how much you need these glossary of terms because some words are interchangeable like father and grandfather. It seems as if they're talking about the same person into you realize that that is not a last name that that is a term for father and grandfather. The first chapter is one long letter from a mother to her daughter. The mother is from Zimbabwe and the daughter is a student at Harvard University in the United States. The letter seems to be offering some insight into the mother's life to prepare the daughter for what is to come. The mother talks about the history and hardships in Zimbabwe. The mother also talks about happy memories of being a child there with her favorite sister. The family seems to be very wealthy because they have servants and of course they can afford to send a child to the United States to go to Harvard. The mother talks about her personal experiences and those of her generation growing up in a village in Zimbabwe. Some of the memories are small like the way the light reflects on walls. And some of the memories are huge like the incredible racism that existed when she was younger. The chapter ends with the mother telling her that she wants to give her her wisdom because it is all she has to give to her daughter. It makes me think that perhaps the mother has fallen on hard times and has used all of her money to send her daughter to Harvard.
Chapter 2 of ZenZele is much longer and gets deeper into the story. It is still part of the same original letter. The mother seems to be talking directly to the child about a memory about her dislike of rural African life. They are from a village named Chakowa in Zimbabwe and the beginning of chapter 2 talks about a really neat Christmas tradition that the daughter did not enjoy. It talks about strict cultural hierarchies and washing your hands before a meal. I find that interesting that even in village life there are still so many rules and a hierarchy of individuals. It says to me that the racism that exists outside of their walls has made them want to have a cultural hierarchy inside their walls as well. The smallest of people apparently cannot wash their hands before the more mighty people. You would think they would be tired of that kind of thing with all the racism they have to endure in town. I find that fascinating. The mother also speaks of books of knowledge in the village. People telling stories from one person to the next are the books in their village. And she compares them to the massive library in an Ivy League school. She tells her daughter that the books in the town are just as good as the books at Cambridge library. She worries that her daughter cares more about the books that other people write like Shakespeare and Homer and she should care more about the story of the African people. Again you can see that they are obviously a very wealthy family because they have friends that summer in London over the holidays. The mother seems to be scolding her about looking down upon the villagers who are always so happy to see her. The daughter's first name is Amai. Amai sounds very snobby. Her mother seems very down-to-earth and can appreciate where she came from. The daughter in her mother's memories always looks down upon the poor villagers who were toothless and dirty with disdain for no apparent reason. I'm not sure why she thinks she's so high and mighty. The mother sounds incredibly interesting and you learn more about history of Zimbabwe in this chapter is well. Her sister found a strange cave like hole and made it a special little room to hide in. There's a really disturbing section at the end of this chapter where the sister uses the hole to hide from guerrillas who had been hired to kill her. They only touch upon this for a few moments but you can tell the history of Zimbabwe is about to get really bloody really fast. It seems like the mother has been through a lot. The mother seems kind and open hearted and you have to wonder how her daughter was allowed to become such a snob.
In an extraordinary literary debut—written as a letter from a Zimbabwean mother to her daughter, a student at Harvard—J. Nozipo Maraire transforms the lessons of life into a lyrical narrative. Interweaving history and memories, disappointments and dreams, like the tales of the traditional village storyteller, this letter is a gift from one generation to the next. As her daughter enters a new world, a mother shares the riches of her own through stories of her personal experiences and those of her generation.
She writes of Zimbabwe's struggle for independence, and of the men and women who shaped it: Zenzele's father, an outspoken activist lawyer; her aunt, a schoolteacher by day and a secret guerrilla fighter by night; and her cousin, a maid and spy. Each parable is a shrewd and quite often humorous tale interwoven to form a compelling and powerful story. Every character is a revelation and each story a revolution. Zenzele is for anyone who has ever loved and lost, fought and won. It is a complex tale wherein lies a simple truth: Respect the individual but understand what is vital to the whole