It is often said that 'we are ourselves because of others.' Consider how this might be true of the characters in Tsitsi Dangarembga's NERVOUS CONDITIONS.

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It is often said that 'we are ourselves because of others. Consider how this might be true of the characters in NERVOUS CONDITIONS.

The main protagonist in Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga is Tambudzai or Tambu. The novel Nervous Conditions is set in colonial Rhodesia in the late 1960s.

Nervous Conditions tracks a journey for Tambu which takes her from her rural family to a private school. In that journey she interacts with many different people, each of which influences Tambu's outlook.

Through the course of Nervous Conditions , Tambu is at the age when everyone experiences the changes brought on by puberty, leaving childhood behind. Added to that confusion, she is female in a strongly patriarchal society. She is black in a colonial nation where role is primarily determined by race. She is a Shona speaker in a land where fluency in English is valued. She is largely illiterate in a society that reveres education.

Her uncle Babamukuru's relative affluence has made her aware of the difference between a life of subsistence farming and the promise of living on the mission. Tambu faces a metaphoric journey on all of these planes. The combination influences her beliefs and value system.

From an early age, Tambu is exposed to the injustices of a rural patriarchal society. Too young to fully understand the effects of racism or illiteracy, she can clearly see the results of male domination. When her uncle, Babamukuru, visits the fields, Tambu's father and her brother Nhamo see it fit to return to the homestead while her mother and the girls remain working in the fields. Tambu sees her mother "lips pressed tight ... continue in her labours." She describes the "ferocious swings of her arms" which reveal her mother's pent up resentment. Tambu is emotionally affected by...