Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book2look and 'amaBooks

'amaBooks' recent titles are now featured on, each book having a 'biblet' with brief information, extracts of the writing and links to online stores from which the books can be directly purchased. Readers can also post a comment about the book/biblet and rate the book.
The 'amaBooks biblets can be accessed from (under Books and Fiction/Literature), by clicking on the book2look logo on this blog, or by clicking on the title of this post.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Books of 2010 blog article about This September Sun

The 'Books of 2010' blog has an article about the appeal of Bryony Rheam's This September Sun to Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Extract below, for the full article look at .

"I realised a couple of years ago that Americans and me were kind of different, in that your average 30 year old American has seen versions of themselves and their lives in books, and in films and TV, thousands of times. In fact, they rarely see anything that isn't about some version of their life. Whereas, for a Zimbabwean, I can probably count on one hand (and maybe a half) the number of times I've seen me or someone like me. In fact, as a Zimbabwean in the diaspora, I can't think when I've ever seen me. Until I read THIS SEPTEMBER SUN.

Ms Rheam she was born in 1974, so is close in age to me, and thank god it wasn't a how-we-survived-the-war white person story, because like me she doesn't really remember the stupid war. But it's got a nice big dose of life since Independence, and then a nice big dose of the diaspora, London to be exact, and the classic what-am-I-doing-with-myself story line, that I am familiar with not from fiction but from the actual diasporic (is that the adjective for diaspora?) Zimbabweans I know. "

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Conversations with Writers: Bryony Rheam interviewed

Bryony Rheam's interview with Ambrose Musiyiwa about her writing of This September Sun, and of her short stories, has been published on the Conversations with Writers blog,

'amaBooks at Falcon Fair

'amaBooks braved the winter cold to take part in Falcon College Fair, near Esigodini in Matabeleland South, on Saturday 19 June. Best seller at the fair - Bryony Rheam's This September Sun.
As well as on our own stand, the books were displayed on the award-winning stand of Atelier Cuir.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review of Long Time Coming from the New Welsh Review

New Welsh Review, 88, 2010. Review by Jane MacNamee


‘I am spent. I am hollow. I am ready to dream, to fill up my mind with hope because without hope tomorrow is stillborn’. (Judy Maposa, First Rain)

Long Time Coming is a remarkable achievement. Published in desperate internal conditions by ’amaBooks , established in 2000 in Bulawayo by Ebbw Vale-born Jane Morris and Brian Jones, it brings together stories and poems from 33 authors including Zimbabwean writers and other international voices, as well as contributions from Wales by Peter Finch, Owen Sheers, Ian Rowlands and Lloyd Robson.

Throughout the collection, there are glimpses of private anguish and resilience. Urgent needs are continually frustrated by the consequences of a collapsed economy which has suffered a million percent inflation and that ‘has spawned millionaire beggars and a billionaire middle class’ (Judy Maposa, First Rain). The supermarket shelves are empty, the transport system is minimal and chaotic, and everyone, everywhere is waiting endlessly in queues for the borehole, the bus, bread, mealie-meal, sugar and fuel. There are those, like the woman in Linda Msebele’s story who travel crammed and sweating on the treacherous Chicken Bus and others who drive the latest Mercedes. Where there is no public transport, passengers, like the young woman in Sandisile Tshuma’s Arrested Development, wait in the searing heat at garages to hitch lifts costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In a country left waiting and wanting, the element most keenly awaited for is rain. Water is rationed, women wait for hours with their containers in long scowling lines and rain is precious, as Pathisa Nyathi poignantly depicts in his poem, And the Rains Came:

The enchanting smell of fresh rain
wafts through the enduring odours
from loose rank sewerage from toilets and factories.
Swarms of swallows drift ahead in flights of bliss and rapture
and grand expectations.

Not only do the people struggle in the face of drought, poor sanitation and sporadic power supplies, they battle against the proliferation of AIDS. In Owen Sheer’s story, Safari, a foreign journalist is escorted around a number of brothels by an NGO worker, Tiisetso, leading a project to protect women’s health. Challenged by one of the prostitutes, Rosebud, as to the purpose of his investigation, and what difference he thinks it will make, he is unnerved by insufficient answer, and she leaves him with, ‘Go home Peter. Go Home. And don’t worry, I will stay here. Waiting for something to happen’. Ian Rowlands, on his visit to an orphanage for children who have lost both parents to AIDS, registers the same unease when introduced to an eight year old boy called Innocence: ’..I knew immediately that, as a writer, he would be the seed of a story; words upon a page, a moment of intense irony, a moment I would drag out to illuminate a point’. These writers have the privilege of distance that others do not. In Fungai Rufaro Machirori’s Rain in July, a young couple go for an HIV test before they get married. She is negative, he is positive. Their future together is destroyed.

The individual suffering of ordinary people is set within a broader context of corruption in business , the government and its military: the brutal rape of a village girl, Khayelihle, by soldiers, her son born with a silent tongue, ‘his hands were rolled up into tiny fists holding tightly to the secrets’ (Raisedon Baya, Echoes of Silence); The Awards Ceremony (John Eppel), in which the Deputy Minister of Borrowdale Shopping Centre and his wife are danced to by a group of emaciated ten year old girls before presenting awards to two Comrades – one for strangling five terminally ill patients to help ‘solve the problem of urban overcrowding’, the other for his vicious beating of seven women supporters, two of them expectant mothers, of the National Constitutional Assembly; and Justice (Wim Boswinkel) in which a daughter, forced into prostitution, takes revenge on the businessman, Phil Chibaya, who laid her father off and made their family destitute.

This is a hard hitting collection touched by moments of tenderness: an old man delights briefly in meeting his ex-wife again; a group of young girls fantasise about the personal lives of their teachers; the woman on the chicken bus exchanges a wink and remembers the joy of laugher. But these are flickers of light amongst a people who are grieving. They grieve for the loss of the past, loved ones, livelihoods, dignity, humanity, their sense of self, touchingly expressed by Ignatius Mabasa in Some Kind of Madness. Leaving home for work one day he knows he has forgotten something. On the bus, his companion asks:

‘ Who are you?’....
‘I don’t know,’ I answer looking into her watery brown eyes. That’s it, I realise with a start, that’s what I have forgotten.

Jane MacNamee, March 2010

Long Time Coming, published by ’amaBooks, 2008, ISBN 9780797436442

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bryony Rheam at The Book Café, Harare

Bryony Rheam, author of This September Sun, was at The Book Café in Harare on Thursday 27 May for a discussion of her book. After Bryony read a short excerpt from the novel, Eresinah Hwede of Zimbabwe Women Writers presented a paper in which she identified some of the major themes of the novel, such as that of the search for identity and the ever-shrinking world of the white Zimbabwean. Francis Mungana of Midlands State University then spoke about white writing from Zimbabwe and the insight the novel has given him into what he terms ‘the Rhodesian psyche’.

Those in the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions. Bryony was asked about the relevance of music in the novel. There are quite a number of songs quoted, mainly those of Nat King Cole. She responded by explaining that music defines an age and that it also tends to be associated with one’s youth as this tends to be the time when one is most interested in music. The songs the grandmother in the book hums are a way in which Ellie, her granddaughter, is included in her life and is allowed to experience some of the person she was when she was young. The type of songs we listen to also say something of our mood, and although the songs in the book are beautiful and romantic, they are also sad – ‘Smile though your heart is breaking.’ They help create an atmosphere of loss and longing.

Another question asked was whether Bryony felt that the publishing world was in any way biased. She felt the Western publishing world had stereotypical views of what they wanted the white African writer to produce. They don’t want what is basically a love story because they feel uncomfortable turning away from the political. A number of people in the audience applauded her sentiments and Blessing Mutinhiri, who was chairing the discussion, said that she had faced similar problems with her own work, so it is not something confined to white writers.

When asked about the research she had to do for her novel, Bryony explained that this was one of her favourite aspects as it had been so interesting talking to people who had lived in Harare in the forties. It is often the stories that people don’t mean to tell you that are the most interesting. Bryony also interviewed some ex-Rhodesian soldiers, but had failed to find any black ex-Rhodesian soldiers despite numerous pleas. She had really wanted to find someone who had served in Burma as Samson had in the novel.

In response to a question as to how long it took her to write the book, Bryony said that parts of it were written when she lived in London, about twelve years ago. The first line had come to her after a talk with two friends, one of whom had mentioned the burning of the British flag at Brady Barracks at Independence. The rest of the novel had developed from there, but she had never had a very clear or set idea about what she was writing.

The literary discussion at The Book Café was supported by Pamberi Trust, British Council and ’amaBooks Publishers.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mambo Hills reviewed in The Digging Stick

BOOK REVIEW from The Digging Stick (newsletter of the South African Archeological Society), December 2009

Mambo Hills: Historical and Religious Significance

Clarke, Marieke. 2008. Bulawayo. 'amaBooks. Soft cover, 36 pp.

The Mambo Hills north‑east of Bulawayo have long been an important locus in Zimbabwe's history, perhaps rivalled in Matabeleland only by the Matobo Hills. The history of the region has turned upon these ancient granite domes on more than one occasion, yet they have received little attention in both academic and popular writings until fairly recently. This booklet is therefore perhaps the most important document yet published about the history of the hills. Given its scope, it remains a slightly‑flawed but impressive pointer to necessary future work.

If you wanted an archaeological history of this important area, coupled with a discussion of the various challenges encountered by heritage managers, you will have to wait a while longer. Instead, we have a valuable historical discussion of the changing religious and social importance of the area. The booklet begins with a highly compressed archeological history of the site followed by a summary of the principles of the traditional Shona faith, known locally as the Mwari religion. The Mambo Hills were (and are) a major shrine for this religion, which may be why the hills attained an importance out of all proportion to their size and location.

The crux of the book is a discussion of the War of the Red Axe, an event that has been under-represented in the literature of Zimbabwe's first liberation struggle (Umvukela). The irreplaceable role of Mkwati, both as a co‑ordinator and organiser of the fight against settler forces, has until now been downplayed or ignored in most accounts of this crucial historical event, but Clarke does a masterful job of putting him in his rightful place as one of the true heroes of the first struggle for independence. As significantly, Clarke concentrates on the role Mkwati's wife, Tenkela, revealing not just her achievements, but the wider importance of women in the struggle. This is an aspect of the first independence war that cries out for further research.

The later story of the hills is a sad one, as the shrine was isolated when the surrounding area was declared commercial (and thus privately‑owned) farmland. Unfortunately, we do not find much about the hills in more recent times, including the alienation of the shrines, the Bush War of the 1970s, and Gukurahundi (civil war) in the 1980s. The booklet ends with a sign of hope, discussing the revival of traditional ceremonies in independent Zimbabwe. In my opinion, a major flaw is a lack of discussion of the impact of the fast‑track land reform exercise after 2000, which has seen the local communities invade the farms and take back their land in order to 'safeguard it'. This has had a major impact on the archaeology of the country (Chakanyuka 2007) and the booklet could have made a significant contribution.

Paul Hubbard


Chakanyuka, C. 2007. Heritage, land and ancestors: The challenges of cultural heritage management in the face of the fast track land redistribution programme in Zimbabwe 1999-2006. MA in Heritage Studies, Department of History, University of Zimbabwe.