cover image Black and Female: Essays

Black and Female: Essays

Tsitsi Dangarembga. Graywolf, $23 (168p) ISBN 978-1-64445-211-0

These incisive, impassioned essays by novelist Dangarembga (Nervous Conditions) confront the lingering effects of imperialism in Zimbabwe. She examines empire, racism, and misogyny through personal stories about growing up in what was then called Rhodesia and contrasts her experiences there with a stint she spent living with a foster family in Dover, England. In “Writing While Black and Female,” Dangarembga remembers learning the power of language from its ability to produce action (“After adults spoke to each other, things happened: little children were left”), and relates how writing allows her to transcend racial and gender categories by building and affirming an identity independent of them. She examines Zimbabwe’s pre- and post-colonial history of gender inequality, noting that colonial legislation treated adult women as minors and lamenting how as a child, her brother once felt compelled to ally himself with the “toxic masculinity” of their father by offering his belt to beat her with. Calling for “mental decolonisation,” the author argues that Black feminists must play a crucial role in building a more just future because they “have experienced the more repressive edge of most demographic categories and not succumbed.” Dangarembga’s candid reflections and lyrical prose bring urgency to this thought-provoking argument for political and social equality. Readers won’t want to miss this. (Jan.)