November 28, 2009

Take Me Zimbabwe

Take Me Away Saturday

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there. (Note: ex. not necessarily books by a German or an Australian, but books set in Germany or Australia.)
I am keeping a map of the countries we visit, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of both countries and cultures visited so far:
The Americas and the Caribbean

Triple Threat

Middle East


Sierra Leone

Australia, Pacific Islands
New Zealand

Cultures Across the World
Australian Aborigines
Sioux Nation
Inuit Culture

This week we are visiting the country of Zimbabwe. Here is an easy to see map of Zimbabwe: For more information on this country, click here.
(The photo above is of the famous Balancing rocks in Epworth, Zimbabwe.)

Click on the titles of the books below to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Rogers
Thrilling, heartbreaking, and, at times, absurdly funny, The Last Resort is a remarkable true story about one family in a country under siege and a testament to the love, perseverance, and resilience of the human spirit. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Douglas Rogers is the son of white farmers living through that country’s long and tense transition from postcolonial rule. He escaped the dull future mapped out for him by his parents for one of adventure and excitement in Europe and the United States. But when Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe launched his violent program to reclaim white-owned land and Rogers’s parents were caught in the cross fire, everything changed.
On returning to the country of his birth, Rogers finds his once orderly and progressive home transformed into something resembling a Marx Brothers romp crossed with Heart of Darkness: pot has supplanted maize in the fields; hookers have replaced college kids as guests; and soldiers, spies, and teenage diamond dealers guzzle beer at the bar. And yet, in spite of it all, Rogers’s parents–with the help of friends, farmworkers, lodge guests, and residents–among them black political dissidents and white refugee farmers–continue to hold on. But can they survive to the end? In the midst of a nation stuck between its stubborn past and an impatient future, Rogers soon begins to see his parents in a new light: unbowed, with passions and purpose renewed, even heroic. And, in the process, he learns that the "big story" he had relentlessly pursued his entire adult life as a roving journalist and travel writer was actually happening in his own backyard. An edgy, roller-coaster adventure, it is also a deeply moving story about how to survive a corrupt Third World dictatorship with a little innovation, humor, bribery, and brothel management.
Publisher: Harmony Genre: NF, Memoir, War, Crime, Sociology

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin
In this exquisitely written, deeply moving account of the death of a father played out against the backdrop of the collapse of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, seasoned journalist Godwin has produced a memoir that effortlessly manages to be almost unbearably personal while simultaneously laying bare the cruel regime of longstanding president Robert Mugabe. In 1996 when his father suffers a heart attack, Godwin returns to Africa and sparks the central revelation of the book—the father is Jewish and has hidden it from Godwin and his siblings. As his father's health deteriorates, so does Zimbabwe. Mugabe, self-proclaimed president for life, institutes a series of ill-conceived land reforms that throw the white farmers off the land they've cultivated for generations and consequently throws the country's economy into free fall. There's sadness throughout—for the death of the father, for the suffering of everyone in Zimbabwe (black and white alike) and for the way that human beings invariably treat each other with casual disregard. Godwin's narrative flows seamlessly across the decades, creating a searing portrait of a family and a nation collectively coming to terms with death. This is a tour de force of personal journalism and not to be missed. Publisher: Back Bay Books Genre: NF, Memoir

The Soul of Mbira: Music and Traditions of the Shona People of Zimbabwe by Paul F. Berliner
This sensitive, scholarly portrayal of Shona musicians and their musical tradition is highly engaging and comprehensive in its range of data. Paul Berliner provides the rich cultural context for the music and an intimate, precise account of the meaning of the mbira and its music. Publisher: University of Chicago Press Genre: NF, Music, Cultural Traditions

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer
Nhamo's mother is dead, and her father is gone. She is a virtual slave in her small African village. Before her twelfth birthday, Nhamo learns that she must marry a cruel man with three other wives--and decides desperately to run away. Alone on the river, in a stolen boat, she is swept into the uncharted heart of a great lake. There, she battles drowning, starvation, and wild animals, and comes to know Africa's mystical, luminous spirits. Nancy Farmer's masterful storytelling makes this a truly spellbinding novel--and readers will be cheering for Nhamo from beginning to end. A gripping adventure, equally a survival story and a spiritual voyage. Nhamo is a stunning creation--while she serves as a fictional ambassador from a foreign culture, she is supremely human. An unforgettable work. Ages 8-12. Publisher: Puffin Genre: Children's Books, Fiction, Newberry Honor Book, Survival, Spirituality

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Dangaremba s acclaimed first novel tells of the coming-of-age of Tambu, and through her, also offers a profound portrait of African society. Tambu, an adolescent living in colonial Rhodesia of the '60s (now Zimbabwe), seizes the opportunity to leave her rural community to study at the missionary school run by her wealthy, British-educated uncle. With an uncanny and often critical self-awareness, Tambu narrates this skillful first novel by a Zimbabwe native. Like many heroes of the bildungsroman, Tambu, in addition to excelling at her curriculum, slowly reaches some painful conclusions--about her family, her proscribed role as a woman, and the inherent evils of colonization. Tambu often thinks of her mother, "who suffered from being female and poor and uneducated and black so stoically." Yet, she and her cousin, Nyasha, move increasingly farther away from their cultural heritage. At a funeral in her native village, Tambu admires the mourning of the women, "shrill, sharp, shiny, needles of sound piercing cleanly and deeply to let the anguish in, not out." In many ways, this novel becomes Tambu's keening--a resonant, eloquent tribute to the women in her life, and to their losses. Publisher: Lynne Rienner Publishers Genre: Fiction, Women's Fiction

The Last Safari: A Season of Discovery in Zimbabwe by Bruce VanBuskirk
In the tradition of Peter Hathaway Capstick, this is the true story of an American hunter who spent the 2001 season living a dream, working on safari in Zimbabwe. Filled with fascinating characters, adventure and excitement, it also deals truthfully with the hard lessons learned about the future of hunting in Africa. This is a day by day description of the events, places and people who make the safari industry work in Zimbabwe. If you're tired of reading the same old books from the professional hunting writers, stories filled with technical details but no passion for the hunt or for Africa, then this is a book for you. If you want to know what really happens behind the scenes in order for a safari to occur, then this is a book for you. You'll travel the bush with the author, getting to know the professional hunters and clients, company employees, local villagers, and learn just how much work it takes to run a safari operation in a third world country. Fuel shortages, poaching, war vets seizing property, broken rifles, snakes, charging elephants, and wounded buffalo were all in a day's work. This is a rare look at the behind the scenes efforts to make a client's dreams come true. this deluxe paperback features over 350 pages of non stop action, observations on the current political situation in Zimbabwe, as well as the stories of citizens forced to deal with the realities of life in Africa. Illustrated with over 70 images. Publisher: AuthorHouse Genre: NF, Travelogue, Outdoors & Nature

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer
Even readers who don't like sf will be drawn to a hero who has a sense of humor about his serious mission. In Zimbabwe in the year 2194, the military ruler's 13-year-old son and his younger brother and sister leave their technologically overcontrolled home and find themselves on a series of perilous adventures. Tendai and his siblings encounter mile-high buildings and other miracles of scientific advance; they also find fetid slums and toxic waste dumps. As they're kidnapped by gangsters, forced to slave in a plastic mine, and accused of witchcraft, they're pursued by mutant detectives, who are both bumbling and sensitive and who always seem to be just one step behind rescuing the children. In the best section, the siblings find themselves in a traditional Shona village that at first seems idyllic but turns out to also encompass fierce sexism, ignorance, and disease. Throughout the story, it's the thrilling adventure that will grab readers, who will also like the comic, tender characterizations, not only of the brave, defiant trio and the absurd detectives, but also of nearly every one the kids meet, from street gangsters and spiritual healers to the English tribespeople with their weird customs. Tendai's spiritual coming-of-age is the least interesting part of the novel, but teens will like this teenager with "a hot line to the spirit world." Publisher: Firebird Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Adventure

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller
When the author was growing up, in nineteen-seventies Rhodesia, her parents kept loaded guns by the bed. "Don't startle us when we're sleeping," her mother warned her. "We might shoot you." This memoir of a stubborn, down-on-their-luck, often drunk white family making a last stand against African independence reads like a hard ride over unsafe roads: hair-raising, horrific, and thrilling. One moment Fuller's mother is shooting a cobra in the pantry, the next her sister is calmly baking a cake while armed black soldiers surround the house. The author's honesty about her family's racism is exacting—she recounts how they cheered when they heard mines detonate along the border, because that meant Africans might have been killed—and she delivers an intimate portrait of fierce, flawed lives. Her prose bristles with an unappeased love for Africa and its intense physicality (its smell of "black tea, cut tobacco, fresh fire, old sweat, young grass"). Publisher: Random House Genre: NF, Memoir, War, Sociology

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are tons of others out there. Do you want to share recommendations that feature Zimbabwe? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up next:

December 5: The Middle Eastern country of Yemen
December 12: The European country of Hungary
December 19: The South Pacific island nation of Fiji
December 26: Break

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:


  1. I know basically nothing about Zimbabwe. Although I have seen A Girl Named Disaster before, I had no idea it took place there!

  2. I highly recommend An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah. This is a debut collection of short stories that paints a vibrant picture of life in Zimbabwe under Mugable. You will be touched how people in all classes are surviving and going about their lives day by day. I was struck by the humor in the stories that made everyone human.


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