NoViolet Bulawayo Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

NoViolet Bulawayo

NoViolet Bulawayo

How to pronounce NoViolet Bulawayo: Elizabeth Zandile Tshele is pronounced approximately zan-dal-shull. Her pen name, NoViolet Bulawayo, is pronounced as it looks

An interview with NoViolet Bulawayo

Shortly after winning the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award, NoViolet Mhka Bulawayo talks with Mazwi, a Zimbabwean Journal, about her writing.

Do you have a writing community, ie, other Zimbabwean or African writers you interact with or you find the place isolating and if so is this isolation good or bad?
I'm in an MFA program so yes, I have a writing community. I have no interaction with Zimbabwean and African writers on a workshop level, so on that basis, I am "isolated." It's a double-edged sword—In the past I would crave that specific common ground that would come with interacting with writers from my own background, and that happened when I felt like my mates didn't "get" what I was trying to do. I'm over that now, not having that common ground means I have to forge a new one, and for me that is humanity. It means I have to stand on another level, to go beyond "Zimbabwean-ness" and "African-ness" in my writing, that space without the "burdens" of identity. Actually I've come to appreciate it as liberating, so I guess I can confidently say, it's good, very good, even though it took me a while to get here.

What is your inspiration and does that influence what you write about? Any favourate writers?
Humanity. "Womanity." My homeland. As for writers I'd say Yvonne Vera inspires me more than any other writer because I care about the same things she cares about; from the poetic grace of language to (feminist) themes to the writer's spirit of courage, that bravery to say things that would not normally be said. If she wasn't in the picture I don't think I'd have the courage to write about things I'm writing about. In as much as she is an influence, however, I believe I'm also my own writer and doing my own thing. Don't get me started on my favorite writers but they include Maxine Hong Kingston, Edwidge Danticat, Jean Toomer, Barbara Kingsolver, Daniel Defoe, The Brontes, Jhumpa Lahiri.

The late Yvonne Vera, Tsitsi Dangarembga and now more recently Petina Gappah are the most internationally well known female writers from Zimbabwe. Why do you think there are fewer women writers from Zimbabwe who write?
That is true, and sad. Of course there are a host of reasons, but I think it also speaks to the trying circumstances of African women, not just Zimbabwean women by the way, as the group that comes last in everything and writing is no exception. Of cause this is compounded by the politics of the publishing industry. Still, I believe Zimbabwean women have compelling stories and those who are writing are doing a good job representing, and I'd like to especially thank those who are writing from Zimbabwe, the little known and unknown ones. To me those are the bad-ass writers, imagine knowing you will never be read beyond your borders, never be an international star but still writing all the same! That's writing as speaking, as insisting on one's presence and I think that's deep.

What has being shortlisted for the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award, let alone highly commended mean to you as a young writer?
It's an honor and a necessary boost and I am very humbled and grateful for the recognition. I can only hope it also means something to other young writers out there; and I'm speaking as one who would not have dreamt of entering a couple of years ago because I wouldn't have thought my work was good enough. This is our time baby, and "Yes We Can!"

When do we expect your first book and what will it about?
I am working on a novel and a short story collection, and I'd say I'm worried about rendering them in best form than when they are coming out, so I have no idea. Right now my priority is to write-write-write. As for "about-ness," hmmm, may I keep that as a surprise?

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Midwinter Break
    Midwinter Break
    by Bernard MacLaverty
    Northern Ireland's Bernard MacLaverty is the author of five novels and multiple short story ...
  • Book Jacket: The Ninth Hour
    The Ninth Hour
    by Alice McDermott
    In a pivotal scene in The Ninth Hour, young Sally encounters an increasingly loathsome series of ...
  • Book Jacket: Rebellion
    Rebellion
    by Molly Patterson
    Rebellion overlays the stories of four women, spanning a century and the globe in their wide ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford

    Inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Twelve-Mile Straight
    by Eleanor Henderson

    An audacious epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don't Rise

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y Can't M A S P O O A S E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.