Black and Female: Essays

Graywolf Jan. 2023. 128p. ISBN 9781644452110. $23. LIT
This three-essay collection from Zimbabwean novelist Dangarembga (author of Nervous Conditions, The Book of Not, and the Booker-shortlisted This Mournable Body) looks at the legacy of colonialism and its effects on Black bodies. It partners well with fiction from authors such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison on the exploitation of Black girls and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the dangers of a single narrative. The first essay discusses how Dangarembga’s writing is an analysis of her personal and national history; the second shows how Zimbabwean society from the colonial to postcolonial has affected the position of women; the third states how decolonization must occur in the imaginary realm before society can actively engage in it. Dangarembga moves from a damage-centered narrative toward one of healing and reclamation. Her position as a scholar in a long line of people also dedicated to this work, whom she cites, paired with her life experience, has led to a powerful account of systemic injustice.
VERDICT Dangarembga’s collection is an essential addition to academic collections on race and gender. The moments where she shares her crisis over selfhood as a child and how that search for identity carried over into adulthood are some of the most powerful parts of the book.
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