Zimbabwe

The Last Resort

"Thrilling, heartbreaking, and, at times, absurdly funny, The Last Resort is a remarkable true story about one family in a country under siege and a testament to the love, perseverance, and resilience of the human spirit. 

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Douglas Rogers is the son of white farmers living through that country’s long and tense transition from postcolonial rule. He escaped the dull future mapped out for him by his parents for one of adventure and excitement in Europe and the United States. But when Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe launched his violent program to reclaim white-owned land and Rogers’s parents were caught in the cross fire, everything changed. Lyn and Ros, the owners of Drifters–a famous game farm and backpacker lodge in the eastern mountains that was one of the most popular budget resorts in the country–found their home and resort under siege, their friends and neighbors expelled, and their lives in danger. But instead of leaving, as their son pleads with them to do, they haul out a shotgun and decide to stay. 

On returning to the country of his birth, Rogers finds his once orderly and progressive home transformed into something resembling a Marx Brothers romp crossed with Heart of Darkness: pot has supplanted maize in the fields; hookers have replaced college kids as guests; and soldiers, spies, and teenage diamond dealers guzzle beer at the bar. 

And yet, in spite of it all, Rogers’s parents–with the help of friends, farmworkers, lodge guests, and residents–among them black political dissidents and white refugee farmers–continue to hold on. But can they survive to the end? 

In the midst of a nation stuck between its stubborn past and an impatient future, Rogers soon begins to see his parents in a new light: unbowed, with passions and purpose renewed, even heroic. And, in the process, he learns that the "big story" he had relentlessly pursued his entire adult life as a roving journalist and travel writer was actually happening in his own backyard. 

Evoking elements of The Tender Bar and Absurdistan, The Last Resort is an inspiring, coming-of-age tale about home, love, hope, responsibility, and redemption. An edgy, roller-coaster adventure, it is also a deeply moving story about how to survive a corrupt Third World dictatorship with a little innovation, humor, bribery, and brothel management."

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Behind Enemy Lines

"Behind Enemy Lines is a collection of stories about ordinary people and anti-heroes dragged into a search for meaning in their lives – whether it is a simple search for identity and love, or a bigger struggle for Africa's political freedom. The canvas of their actions, motivations and circumstances is a Zimbabwe of the past, present and future. Humorous, acerbic, funny and tragic, the stories cover the whole gamut of emotions. A soldier navigates his way across hostile territory to a distant safe house; a freedom fighter searches the debris of a ruined city for evidence of a horrific crime; an ordinary boy is caught up in a bank robbery; and an activist journeys home for her ex-boyfriend's funeral. Ruzvidzo interweaves the past, present and future with a confidence often missing in a debutante, offering a uniquely compelling angle to the Zimbabwean experience."

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Butterfly Burning

"Butterfly Burning brings the brilliantly poetic voice of Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera to American readers for the first time. Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late l940s, the novel is an intensely bittersweet love story. When Fumbatha, a construction worker, meets the much younger Phephelaphi, he 'wants her like the land beneath his feet from which birth had severed him.' He in turn fills her 'with hope larger than memory.' But Phephelaphi is not satisfied with their 'one-room' love alone. The qualities that drew Fumbatha to her, her sense of independence and freedom, end up separating them. And the closely woven fabric of township life, where everyone knows everyone else, has a mesh too tight and too intricate to allow her to escape her circumstances on her own.

Vera exploits language to peel away the skin of public and private lives. In Butterfly Burning she captures the ebullience and the bitterness of township life, as well as the strength and courage of her unforgettable heroine."

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The Cry of the Go-Away Bird

"Elise loves the farm that is her home. There is always tea in the silver teapot, gin and tonics are served on the veranda and her days are spent listening to stories of spirits and charms told by her nanny, Beauty. As a young white girl growing up in Zimbabwe, her life is idyllic. 

However, this dream-world of her childhood cannot last. As Elise gets older, her eyes are opened to the complexities of adult life, both through the arrival of her step-father, and through her growing understanding of the tensions in Zimbabwean society. As the privileged existence of the white farmers begins to crumble into anarchy and farm invasions begin, Elise is forced to confront difficult choices and the ancient unforgiving ghosts of the past."

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Mud Between Your Toes

"Glimpse a life filled with contradictions, discoveries, and passion in Peter Wood's fascinating new memoir, Mud Between Your Toes.

This is a powerful story about a teenage boy growing up during the Rhodesian Bush War.

Peter Wood is an African. He is white, but he also holds a Chinese passport. And he is also gay.

Growing up during the 1970s on his family's farm in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Peter was swiftly introduced to a harsh world in which friends and relatives were murdered in ambushes—and the line between blacks and whites was drawn in blood.

As travel bans and UN sanctions caused a deepening chasm between his country and the rest of the world, Peter struggled with his identity as a white Rhodesian and later in life, when living in London, he nurtured his skills as a photographer—and finally found the courage to come out as gay.

Now a twenty-year resident of Hong Kong and an official Chinese national, Peter is arguably the only white, gay, African man in China. But his wildly entertaining anecdotes delve much deeper than that superficial—yet admittedly fascinating—label. These stories, based largely on Peter's childhood diary entries, offer insight into the universal human experience: from tragedies and triumphs to catastrophes and, perhaps most importantly, joy."

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Rainbow's End

"This is a story about a paradise lost. . . . 

In 1978, in the final, bloodiest phase of the Rhodesian civil war, eleven-year-old Lauren St John moves with her family to Rainbow's End, a wild, beautiful farm and game reserve set on the banks of a slowflowing river. The house has been the scene of a horrific attack by guerrillas, and when Lauren's family settles there, a chain of events is set in motion that will change her life irrevocably. 

Rainbow's End captures the overwhelming beauty and extraordinary danger of life in the African bush. Lauren's childhood reads like a girl's own adventure story. At the height of the war, Lauren rides through the wilderness on her horse, Morning Star, encountering lions, crocodiles, snakes, vicious ostriches, and mad cows. Many of the animals are pets, including Miss Piggy and Bacon and an elegant giraffe named Jenny. The constant threat of ruthless guerrillas prowling the land underscores everything, making each day more dangerous, vivid, and prized than the last. 

After Independence, Lauren comes to the bitter realization that she'd been on the wrong side of the civil war. While she and her family believed that they were fighting for democracy over Communism, others saw the war as black against white. And when Robert Mugabe comes into power, he oversees the torture and persecution of thousands of members of an opposing tribe and goes on to become one of Africa's legendary dictators. The ending of this beautiful memoir is a fist to the stomach as Lauren realizes that she can be British or American, but she cannot be African. She can love it -- be willing to die for it -- but she cannot claim Africa because she is white."

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Shebeen Tales

"'Beautifully written — a glimpse into a rarely seen African reality.' -Weekly Journal

Throughout southern Africa, shebeens are where jokes are born, news is embellished and exchanged. They are unique vantage points where men go after a day's work, both to escape from the troubled world around them and to observe and comment on it. In Shebeen Tales, Zimbabwe's leading author offers a view of his country not from the privileged and insulated perspective of a well-heeled visitor, but that of the ordinary person who, with the help of dry wit and illegal beer, pokes fun at the rich and mighty. Struggling against madcap motorists, pompous bureaucrats and the other woes of life in the city, the man in the shebeen sees modern Africa as it really is, not as press releases or tourist brochures would have us believe. Hove looks straight in the eye of a society suffering from AIDS, drought and economic hardship, but does not succumb to despair. With a wry sense of humor, he celebrates a people who live life to the full, laugh and sing, tell tall tales – whatever is thrown at them. In new pieces written for this edition, he discusses the vexed issue of homosexuality in Zimbabwe and also casts an amused eye at President Mugabe's wedding."

(A special thank you to book club member, Ivor Watkins for the suggestion.)

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