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It is simply too much to say and too much to pay, and this is only today’s price. Tomorrow will be more.
—Sarah Ladipo Manyika, from “Zvakwana”
Sarah Ladipo Manyika was raised in Nigeria and has lived in Kenya, France, and England. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and teaches literature at San Francisco State University. Her writing includes essays, academic papers, book reviews and short stories. Sarah’s first novel, In Dependence, is published by Legend Press and Cassava Republic Press. Sarah is a book juror for the Etisalat Prize for Literature and for the California Book Awards. She sits on the boards of Hedgebrook and The Museum of the African Diaspora. Visit her website.
When I first read Sarah’s short story, “Zvakwana”, I was struck by two things: how elegantly the history of Zimbabwe was being woven into the plot and how realistic Samson seemed, down to the details. After reading “Zvakwana” I knew quite a bit about the period of catastrophic hyper inflation that took place in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s and I was struck by how it would have affected a character like Samson – someone who, despite having a relatively well paying job, was starving. The resolute way in which Samson deals with his situation, as a fact of his life as opposed to a tragedy, is also striking. He concentrates on his family and the overall state of his country instead of his own suffering and there are moments of humor along the way. His hunger is forced into the background of the story and his mind.
It’s a thought provoking, smart story with a jarring ending and my admiration for it is surpassed only by my admiration for the author herself. I’ve yet to meet another author who manages to combine such elegance and kindness with such nuanced and interesting perspectives on complex issues. She’s a well connected, influential powerhouse in the African writing world but she’s one of the most approachable people I’ve ever met.