Updated: Jul 31, 2022
This is not a novel with a single viewpoint. Three perspectives run concurrently, those of the three primary characters, Jenny, Beatrice, and Morag. It is as if the author is reminding us that whatever the differences of class, education, culture or ethnicity, the experience of being a woman—be it as a wife, a mother, a widow, a lover—is one which enables mutual understanding. (Chiedza Musengezi, review of Between Two Rivers)
Can a novelist create different narrative voices and points of view in order to tell a story that transcends our individual particularities to seek a sense of 'mutual understanding', or must we accept that we are not entitled to speak outside our own contexts of race, class, gender, culture and religion? What challenges do we face in portraying characters and events from opposing sides of divided societies in situations of war and conflict? What obstacles confront women writing about Africa across the barriers of race and class? How do we acknowledge the dynamics of power and oppression that structure our stories in complex ways, especially when questions of identity and representation have become so contested?
These were some of the questions we explored when Chiedza Musengezi, Godess Bvukutwa and Kay Powell joined me for a Zoom discussion about 'Women Writing Africa', which was a launch event for my novel, Between Two Rivers (Weaver Press Zimbabwe, Troubador Publishing UK, 2022). We have all spent many years in Zimbabwe where Between Two Rivers is set, and we have all written fiction and/or non-fiction set in that country. We spoke about how our personal histories, values and struggles influence our writing, and we discussed the ways in which postcolonial diasporas disrupt our capacity to feel any strong sense of identity and belonging. My son Dylan Beattie chaired the event.
We had a lively audience who made their own contributions and raised their own questions. Ruth Hartley, a writer from Zambia who now lives in France, shared her insights and wrote a blog inspired by our discussion which you can read here. Ruth's contribution to our conversation is about 30 minutes into the video. There was also a very interesting contribution from Nana Anto-Awuakye who is CAFOD's West Africa Diaspora (UK) Engagement Stakeholder Manager. You can hear her at 49 minutes into the discussion. Still on the topic of diasporas and identities, Dr Linda Chipunza spoke movingly of what it means to be the daughter of a Zimbabwean mother and a South African father who has lived in England and South Africa. She is at 53 minutes into the video.
All this engagement and dialogue amounted to a scintillating hour of literary conversation which left many of us wanting more. We hope to have similar discussions on different topics in the future. Watch this space!
Here is the video of 'Women Writing Africa'.
To buy any of Tina's novels—Between Two Rivers, The Good Priest, or The Last Supper According to Martha and Mary—please go to this link.
You can find out more about Kay Powell's novel set in Zimbabwe - Then a Wind Blew—and how to buy it at her website.
All books are also available on Amazon.