Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 12 Novels by Writers of Colour in 2015, from Mediadiversified

  1. The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician, Tendai Huchu

Having read his debut novel ‘The Hairdresser of Harare’ I had high expectations of Tendai Huchu’s latest offering and luckily I have not been left disappointed.
A witty and intelligent read, the book follows three Zimbabwean men adjusting to life in Scotland.
Our magistrate re-lives his glory days while coming to terms with the fact that the success, qualifications and titles lauded on him back in Zimbabwe mean nothing in the UK; from magistrate to menial worker, how location can change the worth of a man, providing insight into the middle-aged male migrant experience. The mathematician, a student living it up away from home, benefitting from the chaos which is taking place there, and the maestro, a white Zimbabwean seeking solace from his turmoil in drugs and books.
This was a joy to read from start to finish, stirring within me both laughter and tears.

The full list is at

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Togara Muzanenhamo a finalist for African Poetry Prize

The three finalists for books chosen for the 2015 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry are Zimbabwe's Togara Muzanenhamo for 'Gumiguru', South Africa's Kobus Moolman for 'A Book of Rooms' and, again from South Africa, Joan Metererkamp for 'Now the World Takes These Breaths'. Gumiguru, published by Carcanet Press in the United Kingdom, is Muzanenhamo's second  collection. His most recent, 'Textures, poems by John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo', published late last year by amaBooks in Zimbabwe, was launched at two events in Bulawayo, at the Indaba Book Cafe and at Christian Brothers College, and in Harare at the Book Cafe. He was recently announced as a finalist for this year’s Artists In Residency (AIR) programme and was a featured poet at the 2015 Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam and at the UK's Ledbury Poetry Festival.
Moolman, University of KwaZulu-Natal academic and playwright, was a finalist in the inaugural Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry and was also the winner of the 2013 Sol Plaatje European Union Award.
The Glenna Luschei Prize is worth $5 000 and the winner will be announced on 18 January, 2016. This pan-African poetry prize, funded by literary philanthropist and poet Glenna Luschei, is the only one of its kind in the world. Established to promote African poetry written in English or in translation, it recognizes a significant book published each year by an African poet. Entries came from Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa.
Each year, an internationally renowned poet judges the prize. Now in its second year, the number of entries has more than doubled, and the quality and diversity of books received provided the judge, South African poet Gabeba Baderoon, with a challenging yet enjoyable task. Baderoon is the author of a number of poetry collections including The Dream in the Next Body and A Hundred Silences. She received the Daimler Chrysler Award for South African Poetry in 2005, and is Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University in the United States.
Baderoon says: “I read these books and many of the poems again and again. The [finalist books] feel thoughtfully shaped, rivetingly intelligent and superbly crafted. I found them a pleasure and an education to read. Indeed, my horizons were vastly expanded by the extraordinarily well-realised poems in these collections.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bryony Rheam interviewed in 'Out of Africa'

Bryony was born in Kadoma, Zimbabwe, in 1974. She spent most of her childhood in and around Bulawayo, leaving in 1993 to go to the UK. She returned to Zimbabwe in 2001 where she spent the next eight years working as an English teacher.
In 2008, Bryony moved firstly to Ndola in Zambia and then to Solwezi. Bryony has had a number of short stories published in various anthologies of Zimbabwean writing, and in 2009, her first novel, This September Sun, was published in Zimbabwe by amaBooks. This September Sun won the Zimbabwe Publishers Best First Book Award in 2010 and was published in the UK in March 2012 by Parthian. In May 2012, it reached number 1 on Amazon Kindle sales. She lives with her partner, John, and their two daughters.
OOA: Where do you currently live?
BR: I recently moved back to Bulawayo after living in Zambia for seven years. Despite the economic situation here in Zimbabwe, Bulawayo is still a great place to live in.
OOA: Which writer(s) have influenced you most and why?
BR: I love F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night). His writing is so beautiful and moving. Each word seems to shimmer as you read it. I also love Virginia Woolf (Mrs Dalloway and The Waves) as she is able to transform every day moments into something wonderful. E.M. Forster wrote that ‘most of life is so dull that there is not much to say about it’, but Woolf proves him wrong! I am also a great Agatha Christie fan and love the puzzles in her books and how she presents them – the stories are very simple, yet it is almost impossible to work out whodunit and why.
OOA: Are the characters in your book inspired by real people?
BR: Someone said that a first book is almost always autobiographical and to a certain extent this is true of This September Sun. Both Ellie and Evelyn are very much like me in many ways – but not totally! One of the main characters is a man called Uncle Wally. My mum did have an Uncle Wally who was an architect and who lived for some years in Rhodesia in the 1950s. His wife was by all accounts a snob, which is where I got the idea from. However, the character and his actions are all fictional.
OOA: How has your childhood in Kadoma and Bulawayo influenced you?
BR: I was only born in Kadoma. My parents lived in Chakari at the time. We moved to Mhangura when I was about two or three. Bulawayo has had far more of an influence on me. It is a place I have both loved and hated which is perhaps why so much of my writing has centred on it. Its great failing is that it is such a cliquey place: not only do you need to have been born and raised there to be accepted, but at least three generations of ancestors need to have been as well! Life is often harsh, dominated by droughts and years of political isolation, but there is also a savage beauty to it. The history, too, is so interesting. Bulawayo is a mixture of the old and the new, whereas in Harare a lot of the old buildings have been pulled down. I like going to Harare for the occasional visit, but it lacks a heart – something is missing about it.
OOA: When did you first start writing?
BR: I remember writing when I was six years old. When I was eleven, my dad bought me a second-hand typewriter and I used to churn out stories and poems on it. My first published work was a children’s story in The Chronicle in 1988. I still have it.
OOA: Were you encouraged to write when you were young?
BR: My parents were always very supportive of me wanting to be a writer. Teachers also told me that I had a talent as did a lecturer when I was at university. Ironically, when I first began to think seriously about being a full time writer, that’s when I faced most opposition. How are you going to afford it? What are you going to live on? became common questions.
OOA: What schools did you attend in Kadoma and Bulawayo?
BR: The first school I went to in Bulawayo was Waterford. It was a government school and after a couple of terms, I moved to Whitestone which I did not enjoy as much. Everyone seemed to know each other and I felt very much on the outside of things. I then went to Girls’ College which I enjoyed.
OOA: What do you like to do when you are not writing, what are your hobbies?
BR: I enjoy gardening and reading, of course! I also enjoy looking for old furniture in second hand shops and at auctions.

OOA: You have successfully pursued a career in writing in Zimbabwe - how difficult has this been and what obstacles do Zimbabwean writers face?

BR: Zimbabwe has a very small reading population. Due to the price of locally produced books, many people cannot afford to buy them and borrow them instead. Therefore, sales are quite limited. One of the greatest challenges is being known outside of Zimbabwe and to get your work on the international market. Unfortunately, many people still expect a certain type of story from Zimbabwe – poverty, AIDS, farm invasions – and when you write something which does not include one of these themes, you are deemed to be dismissive of the problems facing the country, as though you are living in a bubble.

OOA: Where is your next novel set and what is the theme?

BR: My next novel, All Come to Dust, is a crime novel set in Bulawayo in the present day.

OOA: What words of advice can you give to aspiring (Zimbabwean) writers?

BR: Networking is very important. Get to know as many writers as possible and get yourself known. The days of being a recluse who does not go on the internet are over. You have to market yourself, which can be difficult if you are not that type of person. Saying that, you have to maintain a sense of perspective: just because you are popular in Zimbabwe, doesn’t mean you are the best in the world. Fame is also a short-lived experience. Don’t forget who you are and who your friends are. I have met a number of writers who are hesitant to help others or they forget their colleagues entirely. That’s not what it’s all about.