A Difficult Read
Welcome, this is Mary Scott with a BookByte for NPR High Plains Readers group. I am here to congratulate anyone who can quickly and easily read “This Mournable Body” by Tsitsi Dangarembga. I found the book very difficult to read. According to a friend it is the style of being written in the second person; however, I finally realized that the book made me feel sad. It was depressing, and I had to follow it up with a light humorous novel and several episodes of “Dry Bar Comedy.” Dangarembga is dealing with challenging topics of race, gender, class, and age all taking place in a young, independent nation of Zimbabwe with its own challenges. Thus, it should not have been a surprise to me that it was so hard to read.
The novel follows Tambu, a single, unemployed, childless, black woman in her 30s. She is an educated woman trying to overcome the poverty of her childhood and her own lack of confidence. These are all characteristics that I found relatable. But, I lose interest or developed dislike for Tambu when I learned that she succumbed to frustration and quit her job. I can understand her frustration over others, especially white men, taking credit for her hard work, but a job is a job. After leaving the hostel, Tambu seems to get caught up in just surviving and living a fantasy life in her head. I became frustrated that Tambu was not doing more to help herself. It felt as if she was giving up on herself. In retrospect, Tambu needed professional help which she finally gets late in the story.
Despite my lack of enjoyment with this novel, there are important points that are made. Problems are revealed that occur in all cultures. There are challenges for people of different ages to communicate and support each other. There is a description in the novel of a crowd attacking a ‘scantily” dressed young lady. It is a scene that could occur here in the United States. As the crowd “gangs up” against the young woman, you see that the general opinion is you have brought all this on yourself by dressing immodestly. The novel also reveals how we as women are often the greatest adversaries to ourselves and to other women.
Despite the sad story, we finally see Tambu victorious. This occurs only she is faced with the dilemma of portraying herself as others expect her to be and betray her values and dreams. Perhaps this book is too much like life is for most of us. There can be much pain and false hopes before our hard physical and psychological work brings us lasting comfort, and we embrace success.
On behalf of High Plains Public radio readers group, this has been Mary Scott sharing with you, This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga, a novel with a high dose of realism.