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A Modern Classic In The African Literary Canon And Voted In The Top Ten Africa S Best Books Of The Th Century, This Novel Brings To The Politics Of Decolonization Theory The Energy Of Women S Rights An Extraordinarily Well Crafted Work, This Book Is A Work Of Vision Through Its Deft Negotiation Of Race, Class, Gender And Cultural Change, It Dramatizes The Nervousness Of The Postcolonial Conditions That Bedevil Us Still In Tambu And The Women Of Her Family, We African Women See Ourselves, Whether At Home Or Displaced, Doing Daily Battle With Our Changing World With A Mixture Of Tenacity, Bewilderment And Grace Holy fuck, this blew my mind I suppose what really got me was watching a young girl in an extremely male dominated world try to work her way through it to succeed in spite of a lot of adversity And to watch each of the women around her try to do so too What I really liked about the novel gets hit on in the author interview at the end, that there are no monsters in this book, each character does get to explain and be understood The author interview also mentions that Dangarembga finds race hard to write about I hope she succeeds though because what was touched on in Nervous Conditions was interesting and I d love to read.Read this book Now. Last year I discovered the writing of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Writing contemporary accounts of Nigerians in both Africa and in the United States and England, Adichie has becoming a leading African feminist voice Before Adichie, thirty years ago Tsitsi Dangarembga attempted to assert rights for African women in both her writing and film making Needing an African classic for my classics bingo this year, I decided upon Dangarembga s debut autobiographical novel, Nervous Conditions, which is influential enough to be included in the book 500 Great Books by Women by Erica Baumeister Reading through the books in this anthology is a personal ongoing challenge of mine, so I was happy to immerse myself in Dangarembga s work.From Zimbabwe and educated in Germany, Dangarembga wanted to expose her children to Africa and returned as an adult She bases the story in this novel on her own upbringing and it is evident from the opening pages Readers meet Tambudzai, a precocious rural African girl who has no future other than living on a Rhodesian homestead with her family until she marries Her uncle Babamukara decided his future at age nine when he started school and reached the top of class Later on a scholarship, he attended secondary school and university in South Africa and later England His wife Maiguru has been equally educated, and through their education, the couple become the headmaster and head mistress at a prestigious missionary school in central Rhodesia It is through this education that Babamukara attempts to uplift his entire family so that they are viewed as the most prestigious members or Rhodesian society It is in this regard that he sponsors the education of Tambudzai s brother Nhambo As the eldest sibling and only boy, the future hinges on Nhambo to use education to uplift his family away from their primitive conditions.Like Babamukara s children Nyasha and Chido who have been educated in England and at the missionary school for their entire lives, Nhambo develops a sense of arrogance towards his family, especially toward his younger sisters reminding them that they are girls and that the homestead is their future Then, through Tambudzai s narration, Dambarembga writes of the opportunity that Tambudzai gains At age fourteen, tragedy strikes at the mission, Nhambo develops the mumps and dies in mere days The mother is beside herself even though is less developed societies the death of one s children is commonplace Babamukara decides to sponsor Tambudzai s education because he feels that the family still needs someone to lift it out of poverty As a result, Tambu moves into her uncle and aunt s care, away from the homestead and poverty, and into a luxurious life.As in many coming of age books, Nervous Conditions is not without conflict Tambudzai is taken under Nyasha s wing and views firsthand how life in England has made her arrogant and vows not to repeat this behavior Babamukara praises Tambudzai as a model child and wishes that his own daughter would follow in suit Nyasha, unfortunately, by the time she reaches puberty is English than African and some of her disdain for primitive Africa has rubbed off on Tambudzai While Tambudzai still loves her family and wishes her sisters the best, she finds it harder and harder to return to the homestead with each passing vacation There is no electricity or plumbing or books and life on the Rhodesian plane has become tougher to face Tambudzai finds faults in both of her parents and wish that they would adhere to her uncle s example of using education as a means of bettering oneself in society Yet, her father is the laziest member in his family, and her mother having had no education and married since age fifteen have no future ahead of them Tambudzai does not forget the upbringing that she came from, but on her later visits home she vows to achieve as much education as possible for a female from her era in order to lift her family out of its primitive conditions once and for all.In the past few years I have not enjoyed coming of age books I find as the protagonists are the age of my children that I suffer from a generation gap in my reading During the last few months, I have read quality coming of age fiction, offering me hope for the genre moving forward Tsitsi Dangarembga is an example of how education has lifted her out of poverty Primitive lifestyles and few rights for women are still issues facing Africans today, so when Nervous Conditions was first published in 1988, the work was considered groundbreaking Dangarembga has paved the way so that authors like Adichie have a platform today, and for that I feel privileged to have had read her work In recent years, she has written two follow up novels so readers see where education has taken Tambudzai, and I look forward to following her on her journey through life.4.5 stars Identity is a powerful concept But how does one establish such a thing Conventionally it develops from childhood due to an association with home and place But what happens if your home is changing What happen if you re taken away from that home Indeed, if you are forced to accept another culture s ways and customs, who is the you that is left What nationality do you become These are the question Tambu has to ask herself She s a young black girl living in a small, rural, improvised village in postcolonial Rhodesia She initially believes that her ticket to self improvement is through education However, the only education available is the white man s education She learns to speak English, and eventually she looks back on her origins with an air of indifference and woe Not as much as her brother did, but to a degree that considers them underdeveloped and primitive Again, this is the white man s education coming through She has opportunities afforded to few, but is this a good thing if she comes to scorn her originsIt s bad enough when a country gets colonized, but when the people do as well That s the end, really, that s the end She, like her cousin Nyasha, becomes a creature of flux, a hybrid, a person that walks between worlds and cultures without a true home She can no longer fit in with her kin at the village her intellect has gone beyond that But, she cannot fit into the white man s world because she is black She is too white to be black, and to black to be white Franz Fanon s Black Skins, White Masks arguments become thematic here he argued that to accept the white man s culture is to allow the African heritage to be destroyed It, in essence, leaves the black man wearing a white mask As well as being a black person, Tambu is also a woman in an incredibly misogynistic society She has to deal with the dominating nature of the patriarchal culture, and the oppression associated with it So, life for Tambu is rather shit because everyone treats her like shit Here s some terrible advice she receives when she is youngCan you cook books and feed them to your husband Stay at home with your mother Learn to cook and clean Grow vegetables This is such a strong story with such a strong message In essence it s a response to Achebe s Things Fall Apart which is a response to Conrad s Heart of Darkness. So, that s lots of responses What the author is trying to portray, in a persuasive and compelling manner, is the voice of the colonised female, the voice of her ancestors and the effects on the everyday life of one living in postcolonial Africa Achebe s protagonist was incredibly misogynistic he beats women down In this, Tambu has a chance to prove her worth in such a male dominated society Her awakening does come very late in the novel it takes her a long time to realise the absurdity of her situation condition and it does eventually completely change her The novel is narrated retrospectively, so we do know it s coming, but it s still great to see her find her voice and become an empowered women By the end she develops the will to speak out and stand up for what she believes in Tambu comes to hate the men of her family she comes to hate every aspect of her situation she becomes hardened and convinced not to conform to the white man s way She s still got a lot of prejudice to wade through before the world accepts her, but I feel like she will get thereYou can t go on all the time being whatever s necessary You ve got to have some conviction, and I m convinced I don t want to be anyone s underdog This is a great coming of age story. Quietly, unobtrusively and extremely fitfully, something in my mind began to assert itself, to question things and refuse to be brainwashed, bringing me to this time when I can set down this story It was a long process for me, that process of expansion Thus ends the novel which started with the narrator s confession that she was not sorry when her brother died The painful process of expansion which made Tambu s story possible was blocked for many years blocked by the patriarchal system which provided education for men and exploited women s physical labour at home.When her brother dies, Tambu is allowed reluctantly to take his place Brainwashed to believe in her own inferiority, she enters the world of education at her godlike, patriarchal uncle s mission school, and she defers to his charismatic omnipotent rule But as she gets closer to her cousin Nyasha, she realises that there are other ways to perceive the world, once you have a comparison and a choice And she sees the power of women underneath the rule of ridiculously pompous men And recognising one s own strength is the first step to shake off injustice The victimisation, I saw, was universal It didn t depend on poverty, on lack of education or on tradition It didn t depend on any of the things I had thought it depended on Men took it everywhere with them But what I didn t like was the way all the conflicts came back to this question of femaleness Femaleness as opposed to and inferior to maleness Tambu would have been surprised to discover how universal it REALLY is, that conflict she hates It goes beyond the question of race and colonialism and Christian versus tribe rites You find it in highly educated, modern and over privileged families in liberal democracies Men take it everywhere with them But of course the situation is extreme if you are a young, sensible and gifted girl in the clashing worlds of Christian bigotry and tribal patriarchy As a woman, you are barely human And you have to learn to play your cards well to survive in a society designed for and by men You have to know which fights to pick, and which ones to drop for your own safety Tambu and Nyasha learn to navigate the dominance of maleness and whiteness while they grow up side by side, but it is not without major sacrifices Tambu has to let go of her broken mother, and force her own way in order to make a change for herself Nyasha, a hybrid schooled in England, fights for her right to be an equal to men, and almost dies in the process, while taking out the punishment on herself as she develops bulimia and anorexia only to be told by a white psychiatrist that Africans don t have that kind of illness.The two girls support each other, with the help of their female relatives, and encourage each other to stay on the path of searching for their own identity, rather than to assimilate with Christian or tribal oppression In the most difficult times, education is not only a means to reach independence, but also a soothing medicine for repeatedly broken hearts and wills Most importantly, most wonderfully, there was the library, big, bright, walled in glass This novel should be required reading for the metoo generation It is as powerful as Things Fall Apart, but it adds the experience of the hidden world of women An inspiration on so many levels, I strongly recommend it to the world of today