Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Book review by Sam Sørensen
“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 and painful process for me, that process of expansion.”
Dangarembga’s semi-autobiographical novel Nervous Conditions presents Tambu’s experiences coming of age in post-colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The novel begins on Tambu’s jarring, unrepentant confession: “I was not sorry when my brother died.” Immediately, Tambu immerses her audience in one of several tragedies that drive the narrative. Tambu navigates power structures, difficult relationships, and sexism, which are all competing with the main goal of her own emancipation. The novel proves compelling and timeless by engaging the interwoven oppressions of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, a lot of the same injustices Tambu encounters in post-colonial Rhodesia, we still see today in various countries. Dangarembga published a sequel, The Book of Not, in 2006, but that requires a review of its own!
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About the reviewer: Sam S. has worked as a Circulation Assistant for the Tredyffrin Public Library since 2013. She loves writing, reading, teaching, playing with her cat (Gigi!), and finding the perfect cup of coffee.