Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sandisile Tshuma's short-listing covered by Zimbo Jam and others

The short-listing of Sandisile Tshuma's short story Arrested Development, first published in Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe, for the Thomas Pringle Award has been covered by various newspapers and websites, including Zimbo Jam. Zimbo Jam noted the impressive list of previous winners of the award, including Nadine Gordimer and John M Coetzee.

The Zimbo Jam article can be found at

The short-listing is also covered in News Day, in The Chronicle and in The Zimbabwean



Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sandisile Tshuma Shortlisted for Thomas Pringle Award

Sandisile Tshuma's short story, Arrested Development, has been shortlisted for the Thomas Pringle Award. The story first appeared in Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe, and was then reproduced in the Longhorn collection When the Sun Goes Down for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and in the South African literary journal Wordsetc.

Sandisile was born and raised in Bulawayo. She returned to the city after three years studying Chemical, Molecular and Cellular Sciences at the University of Cape Town, to study Development and Disaster Management at the National University of Science and Technology. She has a keen interest in human rights and is currently engaged as a Programme Associate for the UNESCO East and Southern Africa EDUCAIDS programme. Arrested Development, her first and only published short story, looks with humour at the struggle to survive in Zimbabwe through the eyes of a student researching an essay on cross-border trading.

The Thomas Pringle Award, organised by the English Academy of Southern Africa, is for the best short story published in a newspaper, journal or periodical. The other shortlisted writers are Stephen Watson (Professor in English and Director of the Creative Writing Centre at the University of Cape Town), Liesl Jobson (South African poet and musician, winner of the Inglis House Poetry Contest and editor of the magazine Mad Hatters' Review), Arja Salafranca (South African writer and poet, editor of the Life supplement of The Sunday Independent, winner of a Sanlam Award for Poetry(1994) and for short fiction(1999), and winner of the 2009 Dalro Award for poetry) and Gail Dendy (South African contemporary dancer and poet with six collections to her name, with 5 university degrees).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Julius Chingono and John Eppel soon to be published by 'amaBooks

The next publication by 'amaBooks is to be Together, a collection of short stories and poems by two of Zimbabwe's leading writers, Julius Chingono and John Eppel.

The collection, which will include 25 poems and 8 short stories by Julius and 24 poems and 11 short stories by John, will be published in early 2011.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nadifa Mohamed enjoys Long Time Coming

"I have finally finished Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe; it travelled with me to Somaliland, Australia and Norway! I loved the insight it gave into everyday life in Zimbabwe; the bus rides, weddings, rivalries that go on despite political unheavals. It is a crucial addition to what we hear about Zimbabwe from the minds of writers intimately connected to the country. I especially enjoyed Monireh Jassat's A Lazy Sunday Afternoon, Petina Gappah's The Cracked, Pink Lips of Rosie's Bridegroom, Mathew Chokuwenga's 10 Lanigan Avenue and Linda Msebele's The Chicken Bus."

Nadifa Mohamed's debut novel, Black Mamba Boy won the 2010 Betty Trask Prize, is shortlisted for the 2010 Guardian First Book Award and has been shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Set in 1930s Somalia, the novel charts one boy's long walk to freedom through dangerous, conflict ridden EastAfrica, based on the true story of the author's father's life.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christopher Mlalazi's Election Day at Theatre in the Park

Christopher Mlalazi's play Election Day is to run at Harare's Theatre in the Park from 10 to 27 November at 5.30pm and at 7.30pm each day, except Sundays and Mondays. The short story Election Day on which the play is based appears in Chris' award-winning collection Dancing with Life: Tale from the Township. The book is available in many outlets in Bulawayo and Harare, including just across Harare Gardens from the theatre at the National Gallery, for $8.
Outside of Zimbabwe, the book is available through many online outlets and can be read as an ebook in the USA through www.scribd.com.

"It is election time. His Excellency, Poka Oka Ndiseng’s ruling party is losing by a very wide margin in the polls. His wife, Samantha, and his personal advisor, Twenty, have both panicked and they are urging Ndiseng to flee the country, but an adamant Ndiseng tells them he is not going anywhere..."

The photograph is of the play's director Eunice Tava, twice winner of a National Arts Merit Award for Outstanding Actress.

The Zimbo Jam article about the play can be found at http://www.zimbojam.com/film-tv-a-theatre/theatrically-speaking/1927-christopher-mlalazi-play-premieres-at-theatre-in-the-park.html

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bulawayo poets featured on Poetry International website

The work of seven Bulawayo poets is featured on this month's Poetry International website. Four of the seven have been published by 'amaBooks: Deon Marcus has had poems in each of the four books in the Short Writings series and his collection Sonatas won the 2005 National Arts Merit Award for Best First Book and the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association award for Poetry and Drama; Shari Eppel's poem Bhalagwe was first published in Short Writings from Bulawayo; Mgcini Nyoni's When We Were Young and Mthabisi Phili's Sunset In Mzilikazi were both published in Intwasa Poetry.
Information about the poets and samples of their work appear on:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

UK Publishing Deal for Bryony Rheam

Zimbo Jam reports the publishing deal between 'amaBooks and Parthian Books that will result in Bryony Rheam's This September Sun being available in UK bookshops in 2011.
Bryony Rheam with Tswarelo Mothobe at the Indaba Book Cafe in Bulawayo
The article also reports that This September Sun is now available online in South Africa through www.porcupinepress.co.za and that it is available as an ebook in the USA through www.scribd.com.

The article can be found at http://www.zimbojam.com/culture/literary-news/1877-uk-publishing-deal-for-bryony-rheam.html

The UK publishing deal for This September Sun is also reported in The Zimbabwean:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bryony Rheam interviewed in African Writing

Bryony Rheam's interview with Emmanuel Sigauke about This September Sun has appeared in African Writing. The magazine is available as a 110-page print edition, or can be purchased online through www.african-writing.com.
The photographs are of Emmanuel Sigauke and of Bryony Rheam with Jeanette Johnson at the launch of This September Sun. Jeanette is the Bulawayo artist whose painting was used for the cover of the book.

Interview with Bryony Rheam:

1. I just finished reading This September Sun and I enjoyed it a lot. You created an impressive character in Ellie. I also now know that the book is not autobiographical, but what inspired Ellie?

Although the novel is not an autobiography, it is autobiographical in many ways. I am very much like Ellie and there are parallels in the events in our lives. I don't see her as myself though - she is a character in her own right.

2. I love the first sentence of this novel, but this question is about the ending. Is it reasonable for Ellie to expect to go back to Zimbabwe and find Tony waiting for her after all these years? Was it just a momentary epiphany, or a sudden realization that there could actually be alternatives to how she had thought she could dream? Or does it really matter what she returns to as long as she returns with a sense of hope?

The ending of the novel appears to be a 'happily-ever-after' one, but the more you think about it, the more you begin to wonder if this isn't another of Ellie's dreams - like her one of going to live in the UK. Will Tony be waiting for her or will he have met someone else? That's up to the reader to decide. However, although Ellie is an idealist who will probably encounter many problems and frustrations on her return to Zimbabwe, the most important thing is that she is going back to Zimbabwe with a sense of starting over rather than dwelling in the past.

3. Readers of my age seem to connect with Ellie in that she speaks for our times. But how important was it to make her ignore the war? If she was six at independence, was she too young to be bothered about the vagaries of war? I know I wasn't too young not to remember, but then I was in an area that continued to see the signs of war four or five years into the eighties. In other words, was the war as irrelevant as Ellie seems to imply?

I don't think that Ellie sees the war as irrelevant; after all, it had such an impact on her family. What she despairs of is the tendency of the older generation to almost wallow in its pain and therefore refuse to move on. It's a time in Zimbabwe's histrory that people seem to have to constantly return to, whether they be politicians, writers or the average person on the street. That's all very well, but what about now?

4. I know you have pointed out that this novel is a mystery/romance. But I think it turned out to be literary too. Do you care about it being considered literary? Or are those genre distinctions even necessary?

I am sure there are many ways in which the novel may be considered literary. I have actually discovered a number of things that may be considered symbolic, but that wasn't my intention when I wrote the book. T.S. Eliot believed that the author's intention wasn't as important as the reader's response and I go along with that. I'm glad that it can just be read as a mystery/romance because it means it appeals to a wider audience than a purely literary work would.

5. You have already been compared with Doris Lessing and because of that, I couldn't help but look for traces of the The Grass is Singing. Is this a fair comparison?

I have great respect and admiration for Doris Lessing and yes, I think it is fair to say that her writing has influenced me a lot. I remember sitting in almost trance like state after finishing the last page of The Grass is Singing!

6. Which writers have influenced your writing? How many of these are Zimbabwean, or is this even relevant?

There are three books which I could read over and over again. They are The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (I consulted this book many times when writing Evelyn's diaries), Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (I love the attention to the smallest detail) and Reef by Romesh Gunesekera, a Sri Lankan writer (politics are so much in the background here, they are almost non-existent, yet somehow you manage to feel its effects in the lives of the characters). Funnily enough, I haven't always liked other books by these writers.

7. There is always debate about whether one is or is not an African writer, and often, the debates are fraught with misunderstandings, leading to unnecessary controversy. Do you consider yourself an African writer? And what does this mean to you?

This is one debate that will go on for eternity! I think I'd just like to call myself a writer actually. I don't see any need to be anything in particular, even if I do live in Africa.

8.There are some subtle metafictional elements to This September Sun (which I enjoyed, by the way). How important was it for you to present Ellie as a writer? As I read the story, I enjoyed being aware that it was being written as I read.

I feel writing is a way of making sense of your life. Why, for instance, do people keep diaries? Both Evelyn and Ellie use writing for a number of reasons. One, as I said, is to make sense of their realities; another is to record it - both women want to be 'heard' by someone: Evelyn uses her diaries as a confessional and eventually leaves them to Ellie because she wants them to be read. Ellie feels constantly overlooked and therefore demands that the reader listen to her. However, as with all first person narratives, how far are they to be trusted? At times we see an incident from two different points of view, such as the time when Evelyn and Ellie visit Miles's house. Which is the truth?

9. I read somewhere that you studied literature in college. How has this influenced your writing? You are also a teacher. Do you believe, as Achebe, that a writer is like a teacher?

Studying literature at university definitely influenced me in a number of ways. I had to read a large number of books that I would never have chosen to read for a start! I also became much more aware of how vulnerable the writer is and how you have to constantly think about how your writing may be criticised, both positively and negatively - but this shouldn't stop you writing. The biggest drawback about studying literature is that you always want to look deeper into something and I really resented the way some of my favourite texts were almost carved up and dissected. I got to the point where I just wanted to read for reading sake and to be entertained, but I don't think you can ever do that again after studying literature! I did get frustrated when studying post-colonial litertaure because I felt that many of the white characters in much of the writing weren't 'real'. They tended to be limited to the District Commissioner or a policeman. Issues of identity and belonging were never seen as 'white' problems. I used to argue quite a lot during turorials, but I never really felt that I got the others to listen to me. I think everyone was too busy being politically correct! As for a writer being a teacher, I would hate to be didactic in my work, but I do think you can prompt the reader to look at a situation differently. How many times have you heard someone say, 'this book changed my life'? Books can have a huge impact on people.

10. Your novel has been hailed as the first one in Zimbabwe to educate readers about the white world in Zimbabwe in the 80's. I don't know how true this is, but having studied Zimbabwean literature at the University in Harare, I was well aware of the absence of white Zimbabwean literary works on the syllabus. Do you think the makers of the curriculum deliberately left out these works, or the works were not being written.

I don't think there have been many literary novels by white Zimbabweans. In fact, I can only think of Doris Lessing and possibly John Eppel. However, I do think that will change.

11. What aspects of This September Sun were difficult to write? I imagine coming up with those letters and keeping them in the same voice may have been time consuming, yet they sound so natural, so believable. Was this difficult to do?

Yes, it was very difficult to 'be' Evelyn. Sometimes I thought she sounded too old-fashioned, like a character out of a Jane Austen novel. I also struggled to find her a place within England. Should she be posh, upper-class or working class. I needed her to have a 'neutral' accent, because I would have found doing a broad Yorkshire accent or something similar very difficult! I had to be aware of the words I used in case certain expressions weren't in use in the 1940s and also be aware of the era in general - what did women do and what didn't they do? Getting the historical bits right meant a bit of research, but I enjoyed that.

12. What do you think of the future of Zimbabwean literature?

I think writers need to start to move away from the political, at least the overtly political. We need to write love stories and thrillers and mysteries, otherwise we will continue to go over the same ground.

Christopher Mlalazi reads with Ron Slate at the Sacramento Poetry Centre

Christopher Mlalazi read from his work at the Sacramento Poetry Centre on October 11. Also reading at the same event was American poet Ron Slate.

Chris read from his award-winning collection Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township.

Ron Slate earned his Masters degree in creative writing from Stanford University in 1973 and did his doctoral work in American literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He started a poetry magazine, The Chowder Review, in 1973 which was published through 1988. He lives in Milton, Massachusetts.

The Incentive of the Maggot, his first book of poems, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2005. The collection was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle poetry prize and the Lenore Marshall Prize of the Academy of American Poets. The collection won the Bakeless Poetry Prize and the Larry Levis Reading Prize of Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Great Wave, his second book, was published by Houghton in April 2009.

Chris earlier that day spoke about his work to students of creative writing, and others, at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tendai Huchu appreciates This September Sun

Tendai Huchu, author of the recently published novel The Hairdresser of Harare, comments on Bryony Rheam's This September Sun:

"This September Sun is really really good, the prose borders on poetic. It's a gentle yet stunningly visual story. She's a breath of fresh air. Most of our authors, myself included, are storytellers but Bryony seems to be more of a stylist, an artist.

Over the last decade, decade and a half, virtually every book that has come out of Zimbabwe, both fiction and non fiction has had some protest of 'Mugabe', 'The Mugabe Regime', 'The Zimbabwean Government', 'Zanu PF' as its core selling point. Here you have a novel that would still work even if the circumstances in the country were different. This September Sun is a powerful work and breaks new ground in our literature.

The relationship between Ellie and Gran is as fantastic a relationship as has been conjured up in any book. Rheam is a language scholar and I've read novels constructed by graduates usually of creative writing programs, which though technically excellent lack passion, experience and soul in them. This is not an accusation you can level at Rheam. There is a poetic like quality in the prose that could have only come from the heart, not from the head."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Brian Chikwava's love-hate history with Zimbabwe

Brian Chikwava, who has contributed short stories to Short Writings from Bulawayo III and Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe, is interviewed in The Zimbabwean about a forthcoming lecture on the theme 'The Past is Another Country':

"I love it for innumerable things, but loathe it for the way it has ceased to care about the plight of its poor and less fortunate."


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Porcupine Press Website in South Africa To Sell 'amaBooks Titles

Two 'amaBooks publications, Bryony Rheam's This September Sun and Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe, are now being sold online in South Africa through the Porcupine Press website: www.porcupinepress.co.za

This September Sun is now available online for the first time in South Africa, and Long Time Coming is now available at a much lower online price. Other books to follow soon.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

amaBooks e-books in the USA

Three of amaBooks titles are now available in the USA as e-books: This September Sun, Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe and Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township.

They are all priced at $9.99, through http://www.scribd.com/document_collections/2622695

Monday, September 27, 2010

Deon Marcus' Sonatas Reviewed

Review of Deon Marcus' poetry collection Sonatas from www.poetrybulawayoreviews.blogspot.com

Deon is a musician, a member of the Bulawayo Philharmonic Orchestra. The title Sonatas could be expected from a musician. The title also fits like a glove (forgive the cliché) as most of the poems are musical.
Reading this collection of poetry by Deon Marcus, it is not difficult to understand why he won a NAMA award for Best First Book 2005 and Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association award for Poetry and Drama 2005.
My firm belief is that poetry should be accessible; I am unwilling to develop a headache trying to understand what a poet is talking about. There is the myth that poetry should be abstract for it to be good. For the majority of Deon’s poems, you do not develop a headache trying to understand what he is talking about and the subject matter is relevant, take for example the poem The Erl-king:

What ever happened to those Sunday
afternoons when time for a moment stood
quite still, when poetry was read with tea and
scones and Schubert lieder filled the air with their

spinning wheels and Erl-king tales?
What ever happened to walks at Hillside
Dams and sitting sunning summer brows with
silky sweat and melting ice-cream cones and coke...

You can detect some musicality in Deon’s poems; the arrangement is not what I, who is totally tone deaf and without rhythm, would do. Deon’s collection is a must have for poetry lovers. I cannot resist sharing the very short poem Intermezzo:

A collage of moments nailed
together in the hope of making
something pretty?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bongani Ncube-Zikhali wins the Intwasa Short Story Competition

Bongani Ncube-Zikhali has won the 2010 Intwasa Short Story Competition, following in the footsteps of other 'amaBooks writers: Thabisani Ndlovu, Bryony Rheam, Chaltone Tshabangu and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma.
Three of Bongani's short stories have so far been published by 'amaBooks: Just Trust Me in Echoes of Young Voices; Freedom and The Face of Truth in Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Voices II. All three of the stories appear in the combined collection Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Zimbabwe Voices, which is available through online bookstores throughout the world. The Echoes of Young Voices project was supported by British Council Zimbabwe.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Long Time Coming - in London

Putney Library in Wandsworth, London, will present 'A Long Time Coming' on Wednesday 20 October at 7pm as part of Wandsworth's Black History Month. Writers at the event, talking about what inspires them and the writing process, will be Monireh Jassat, Nadifa Mohamed and Samantha Commey-Taylor. Monireh will be reading her short story A Lazy Sunday Afternoon from Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe. Monireh has travelled extensively from her family home in Bulawayo and has published newspaper articles, magazine features and book reviews, as well as short stories. Nadifa's debut novel, Black Mamba Boy won the 2010 Betty Trask Prize and has been shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Set in 1930s Somalia, the novel charts one boy's long walk to freedom through dangerous, conflict ridden East Africa, based on the true story of the author's father's life. Samantha has spent most of her adult life working and living in Wandsworth; her writing being inspired by the people and streetscapes of Wandsworth.

Admission is free, but please book on (020) 8871 7090.

Monday, September 20, 2010

'Memorable Moments' in This September Sun

Emmanuel Sigauke discusses some key moments in his reading of Bryony Rheam's This September Sun on the Wealth of Ideas blog.


The article will also appear later on the Moments in Literature website.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chenjerai Hove comments on Chris Mlalazi's Dancing with Life

Chenjerai Hove comments in a letter to Christopher Mlalazi about his Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township (with permission from Chenjerai and Chris):

I got your short story collection and have already finished reading it. I enjoyed tremendously the ‘chase of the week’. I was laughing alone in my place like a mad man. I think the story captures the real atmosphere of a township, and the vagaries of living there. I must say my favourite story, though, is the last one, ‘A Heart in my Hole’. I enjoyed the filmic technique or the kind of montage you make of the various shots in the life of the young man. And some of the images are fantastic, just magic:

‘Next to uncle’s stool, also enjoying the cool shade, and in domestic harmony, a chick sits on the cat’s back. The cat is dozing between the legs of Bamba, uncle’s biggest and fiercest dog, that keeps nibbling lazily at an irritation on his left haunch. The hen and the rest of the noisy brood are nowhere in sight.’

That is great cinematographic stuff, a beautiful image almost beyond words.

Also I enjoyed the way the old man and the young man are in such harmonious discord in their views of the world, at least they agree on the use of condoms, and on having sex with the German woman, with and without condoms.

But the tragedy of the young man who can only manage a distinction in isindebele and nothing else borders between humour and deep sorrow. At least he takes it in its stride: life goes on with or without all the subjects taught in English.

As I read your stories, I could not help but think of an American writer, Ambrose Bierce, of a century ago, in the way he saw life’s coincidences. Bierce has become very popular again in the last decade or so. Look for his short story collection and I am sure you will see what I mean. He wrote also ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’, in which he gives words his own meanings which are not usually socially accepted in conventional dictionaries.

Well, thanks for writing the book, and I look forward to many more from such a sharp pen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Review of Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe

Tales of a troubled nation

From: www.politico.ie


Long Time Coming: Short Writings From Zimbabwe

Edited by Jane Morris

'amaBooks, 2008

An independent Zimbabwean collection reveals another side to this tragic country. By Clare Lanigan.

In recent years it seems the only news stories coming out of Africa are about poverty, corruption, violence and misery, so it's easy to forget that the continent is more than just the disaster zone of the world. Fiction, poetry and art continues to flourish, although even in this day and age, many European readers' knowledge of black African writing begins and ends with Chinua Achebe, despite the high profiles in recent years of notable writers such as Purple Hibiscus author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. However, collections come along every now and then to remind us that Africa's literary life is not in stasis, and Long Time Coming is a welcome addition to this list, presenting a view of Zimbabwe infinitely more nuanced than the typical media vision of a bleak, depressing place presided over by a tinpot dictator.

Not that the authors in Long Time Coming, published by independent Zimbabwean imprint 'amaBooks, gloss over the difficulties of life in the country today. Themes of deprivation and hunger crop up again and again, but the capacity for humanity to find hope in otherwise desperate situations allays even the bleakest tales. The poverty-stricken narrator of 'The Chicken Bus' by Linda Msebele is cheered by a smile shared with a stranger in a bus. Sisters draw strength from each other after abusive marriages end in 'Loving The Self' by Bhekiliwize Dube, and a young woman driven to prostitution after her family are rendered jobless by an unscrupulous businessman exacts an extreme, but still satisfying revenge in 'Justice' by Wim Boswinkel. The cultural identity of white Zimbabweans is not ignored, with stories like 'The Pencil Test' and '10 Lanigan Avenue' featuring sympathetic white and mixed-race characters. The only group that face universal, and deserved, opprobium are the corrupt political leaders and their business cronies, portrayed to a man and woman as venal, greedy and self-justifying. However, one of the best stories in the collection, 'The First Lady's Yellow Shoes' by Peter Ncube, gets inside the mind of a Mugabe-like dictator forced to flee his country in a fictional revolution and reveals the skewed, but real humanity behind the delusions of authority.

With over 30 stories and poems in a slim volume and some stories only running to a couple of pages, the collection has a somewhat unfinished feel to it, and certainly plenty of the stories count as little more than impressionistic sketches. But there is enough new talent here to keep the casual reader interested, and enough decent characterisation to provide context for the recurring themes of hunger, HIV and inflation that naturally crop up. There have been shake-ups in the Zimbabwean government since the collection was first published in 2008, but in other ways very little has changed. It will be interesting to see how the next 'amaBooks publication deals with the country's story.