Award winning Zimbabwean Author, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, was in Nairobi this past week and I sat down with her to talk about her brilliant historical fiction novel 'House of Stone'.
House of Stone, her first novel which was first published by Atlantic Books (US) in 2018, follows the story of Zamani as he tries to ingratiate himself in the lives of his landlords Abednego and Mama Agnes whose son, Bukhosi, has recently gone missing. Zamani is on a mission to re-write his history and fashion for himself a new existence and to do this, he needs to occupy the place of Bukhosi in the lives of Abednego and Mama Agnes. He is desperate to unearth their hi-stories and claim them for himself. As a narrator, Zamani is quite unreliable and flawed and he employs unorthodox methods, preying on their vulnerabilities to uncover these hi-stories. In this retelling and recollection of personal histories, we see Zimbabwe’s silenced and traumatic history come to the fore merging the lives of all these characters.
My Book club ‘Bookish People Book Club’ hosted Novuyo to a book discussion on 26th September 2019 at Text Book Centre, Sarit Centre in Westlands, Nairobi as we explored our silenced and forgotten histories and how remembrance of history is shaped by the those in and with the power. We spoke of the Gukurahundi Genocide that happened in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe in the 80's, likening it to Kenya’s Wagalla Massacre which also happened during the same period in the 80’s, and how in similar fashion, in both countries, those in power have attempted to erase these traumatic pasts and refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for atrocities committed against whole communities. We spoke of the importance of interrogating history with huge brush strokes and questioning the history fed to us by those wielding power.
Novuyo was such a gracious conversationalist and it was a great pleasure to be the first to host her in Nairobi and have this discussion. Bookish People Book Club had read ‘House of Stone’ earlier in the year in February and this doubled up as a great opportunity for members and the public at large to ask all those difficult questions that came up while reading the book, for instance, her choice of such a problematic narrator - Zamani. After the discussion, Novuyo had a “Meet and Great” session where she signed copies of books for the attendees.
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma is the author of the novel House of Stone, winner of the 2019 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award for Fiction with a Sense of Place and the 2019 Bulawayo Arts Award for Outstanding Fiction. Shortlisted for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and the 2019 and the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize and longlisted for the 2019 Rathbones Folio Prize. She is a native of Zimbabwe and has lived in South Africa and the USA where she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing.
The Book Club:
Bookish People Book Club is a small community of Book Lovers based in Nairobi, Kenya and curated by Muthoni. Our mission is to shine a light on African Literature. As a book club, we read, review and recommend African Literature as well as organise and host book events. See here for our previous Author event with Peter Kimani of Dance of the Jakaranda and 2019 Chair of the Caine Prize for African Writing judges.