A Lesson in Englishness by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma is a short story about growing up in Zimbabwe. The story is Book One in a series titled Atlantic Short Stories. Available as a purchase for USD 0.99 on Amazon, it is not available on Kindle Unlimited. The 40 page-story occupies only 50% of the downloaded book, the other 50% is an excerpt from House of Stone. Usually, when I encounter this type of marketing, I am upset, but not this time. The writing is original and superior with a perspective in narration I found impossible to ignore.
The theme is one of colonialism and colonialists. The author initially accepted a system she might join, accommodate to, and profit from. That was the immature author, however. This first short story examines a time when there was a seeking of acceptance and can be summed up in a few telling sentences.
The author attended Girl’s College in Suburbs, a rich resident enclave of a town even though the author was from Richmond. Attendance at etiquette classes taught the students things they might never practice.
“We are taught how to enter a car,” even though students had to fight for spaces on minibusses.
“We are taught how to drink tea,” even though the dainty cups and saucers would not be found in their homes.
“We are taught the various cutleries on a table,” even though the need for more than one spoon, knife, or fork seemed superfluous knowledge.
“We are taught how to laugh,” laughing without feeling but only out of politeness. (all instructions found at Kindle location 10)
The school taught young people how to be civilized subjects of the empire. The most telling sentence about student body acceptance of the rules is the following:
“So, we know, as we play guessing games about who is going to be the new Head Girl towards Speech Day, to always consider the white girls only for Head Girl, and the black girls for Deputy. It is how it has always been, how it shall always be, throughout the six years of my High School. The Head Girl is always white. The Deputy Head Girl is always black.” (Kindle location 155).
Leaving the short story even before there are a few more important points made in the book, I turn next to the House of Stone excerpt. It can be summarized in the first few lines of the Prologue.
“I am a man on a mission. A vocation, call it, to remake the past, and a wish to fashion all that has been into being and becoming.” (Kindle location 263).
What follows is excellent writing as the author examines a past over three generations and watches the changes that occur as a society emerges from colonialism. The emergence did not happen in a way that any one party planned it. The story requires attention as details of three generations do not always appear in a clearly plotted chronological frame, but that is part of the fun of reading. This extract is five-star plus writing, and I will be sure to read House of Stone before I go to the Ubud Writer’s and Reader’s Festival from 23-27 October in Bali, Indonesia. Novuyo Rosa Tshuma is scheduled to be one of the first round speakers. There are opportunities for question and answer sessions with authors, and I like to read their work before I attend.
Now I advertise a little bit for the UBUD Festival. This year will be my fourth year of attendance. From their website:
From humble beginnings in 2004, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival has evolved into one of the world’s most celebrated literary and artistic events – an annual pilgrimage for lovers of literature and conversation.
Bringing together some of the world’s most powerful voices in a melting pot of artists, authors, thinkers and performers, the Festival is a platform for meaningful exchange and cross-cultural dialogue. A place where artists and audiences alike can discuss shared inspirations, ideas and concerns, the Festival transcends cultural and geographical borders to create a truly global community.
Across five days, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival delivers an eclectic program of events – from fiery conversations to intimate literary lunches, gripping live performances to hands-on workshops.
The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati. It was first conceived of by Janet DeNeefe, Co-founder of the Foundation, as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing.
Follow the link below to get pictures and hyperlinks to the many attractions.
From where I live, the Festival is a one-hour plane ride or an almost 24-hour trip by van, ferry, van again, and then, sometimes, local transportation. Travel in Indonesia is not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, I will make the trip again this year. The cast of published and proven international authors is impressive, and the opportunity to be in such a huge group of authors and wannabe authors is what you would expect.
For any questions the website doesn’t answer, feel free to contact me for answers. My answers are based on experience and might differ from the publisher’s hype.
To contact me directly about UBUD, use the following address rather than sending questions through the blogsite. I use this address for my students and contacts in Indonesia who do not follow my blog (sad).