Zenzele Review

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade August 2001

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If you recall my previous comments on the novel Zenzele, by our contemporary J. Nozipo Maraire, you undoubtedly know that my appreciation of this book ends on the first page. I have previously stated that because of her elementary writing style and child-like narration (un-befitting of the adult narrator), I have hopelessly lost any interest that I could hold to this piece of literature. For this essay, I will attempt to stifle my true opinion of the book and address the social significance of the themes and ideals expressed to racism and prejudice in society today.

Shiri, our narrator, lives a simple life in Zimbabwe. That is, if simple includes a massive revolution for independence and facing brutal racism every minute of every day. By mixing history, memory, and tradition, Shiri recounts her life experiences into a symphony of wisdom in which she advises her daughter, Zenzele, a student at Harvard, on how to live her life.

Most importantly, Shiri teaches her daughter how to survive as an independent woman in the alien and oppressive culture that is the United States of America. Shiri coaxes her daughter not to forget the culture of her homeland. She insists that stories and traditions from the past can be applied to any point in history, and encourages Zenzele to find meaning in her anecdotes about love, conflict, prejudice, and tradition.

While Maraire tells of family and marriage, much of the novel is centered around the revolution of Zimbabwe natives against their European colonial enemy. The import of such a xenotypic culture sparks much civil unrest that leads to brutal prejudice of the natives by the white folk. "Prejudice is in the eye of the beholder... Racism is a phenomenal thing; it is like a thick mist that obscures the vision...