Diaspora Dreams, A novel by Andrew Chatora
Published by KHARIS PUBLISHING, 2021, isbn: ISBN-13: 978-1-63746-029-0
Faraway from Zimbabwe, a new novel by a new Zimbabwean writer, UK-based Andrew Chatora, has been making interesting waves.
Published this year by Kharis Publishing in the US, Diaspora Dreams is in many ways an attempt at the writing back project.
And to be expected, the new author of this very sensitive and cheeky tale has been receiving both praises and brickbats from reviewers.
This often happens to authors who take on totally new angles.
When you swim too far from the comfortable shores, you pay the price, but then, books are not always written to please anyone.
Unlike many recent novels on the similar subject, this story is about a cheeky young male native from Zimbabwe, coming to take on England.
This is a compulsive read which legitimately casts the author as an exciting addition to the emerging voices in African writing.
A semi-fictionalised autobiography, by the author’s own admission, the novel makes a rather radical start as Kundai is not begging to enter England through Heathrow.
A far cry from recent novels that depict fellows from Zimbabwe making up horrendous stories to enter the bosom of Albion, Kundai boldly declares that he is visiting his teacher wife in order to be with her during the delivery of their expected baby.
He is allowed in.
There is no time to be overawed by England as Kundai works his way around new territory as if he is dealing with Dangamvura.
He even finds a job to teach the English language to white pupils!
All hell breaks loose. The white school system colludes against this newcomer lad from UZ.
Immediately, Kundai is disparaged by his white pupils. Some of them raise the red flag against his funny accent and openly correct him for his mispronunciation of English words.
Kundai is viciously sidelined by his white workmates. They take him on a merry go round, denying him space and promotion.
This is the first novel that I have read, exploring the challenges encountered by black teachers from former colonies who dare teach English to white people in England.
As you read on, the irony is overpowering.
In addition, the narrator quickly discovers that he is now a man in a woman’s world.
The English social and legal systems do not tolerate misdemeanours of men from patriarchal societies.
In fact, they view black males with heavy suspicion.
Kundai starts to fight with his wife, Kay. Each time the previously submissive Shona wife falls out with Kundai, she runs to the English legal system for protection.
Kundai is thrown out of the house and is considered too dangerous to be allowed to see his children.
He meets them in neutral zone under heavy supervision. The Shona man in him is falling apart, piece by piece.
Desperate for solace, Kundai tries various other women, but discovers that he is digging an even deeper grave for himself.
Kundai discovers that, maybe, the women of England, black and white, could be as abusive and high handed as the patriarchs are to women, back in Africa.
That the narrator does not try to defend himself during this predicament shows how black masculinity is turned upside down in this novel.
Most of the narratives that we have had in the past have tended to be one sided; depicting black men brutalising women in marriage.
Chatora’s Diaspora Dreams is a good window as it subverts this clichéd narrative, flipping it onto its head.
By the time the story ends, Kundai is in a madhouse, recounting his story. But this is not a story about defeat because Kundai continues to recover and to pick up the pieces.
Diaspora Dreams is dazzlingly real as it shines its light into the intricacies and emotional souls of the immigrant community in Britain.