June 07, 2016

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangaremgba | Book Review

In Nervous Conditions, Tambudzai is an ambitious young girl living in a small village in Zimbabwe who has a lot of obstacles blocking her path to getting an education. Her father is poor, lazy and obnoxious. He's irritated by Tambudzai's efforts to get an education. "Can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother. Learn to cook and clean. Grow vegetables." Tambudzai's mother is less unpleasant when she voices her willingness to farm on a piece of land to raise money for her school fees but she's not rooting for Tambudzai either. Her older brother Nhamo gets his education paid for by their benevolent uncle, Babamukuru, because Nhamo's smart and also because their patriarchal society places more value on male children. Nhamo is vicious and cruel in his treatment of Tambudzai and in his continously taunting dismissal of her ambitions and dreams. When Tambudzai finally gets the green light from her parents to grow maize so she can sell and pay her own tuition, Nhamo sabotages her efforts by stealing her crops and handing them out for free to the girls at Tambudzai's school. The very minute Tambudzai discovers his treachery she attacks him on the football field, knocking him down and dealing him all the blows she can muster before he finally pins her to the ground and taunts her in front of everyone. For Tambudzai, life's a constant battle but she's a fighter. That and a little help from Providence give her the little push she needs as she pursues her heart's desires.

This is a good story about a young girl's ambition and fight to get what she wants in life. Tambudzai isn't surrounded by educated women but she has great examples of women in her life. She has living examples of both the kind of woman she wants to be and the kind of woman she doesn't want to be. She knows women who put their foot down when it's necessary. She knows women who are not afraid to confront the scummy men in their lives. She knows women who fall and get up. She knows women who fight battles every single day. Nervous Conditions was published in 1988, the year I was born. It's almost thirty years old. Readers now will likely label this a feminist text and while it is I would like to point out that these are women all of us knew while growing up. We've known them all our lives. They are normal women. Everyday women. They are our grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters and friends. I like this novel. You should read it.

[Image via Amazon]