From Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire, can you please help clarify what effect the narrator's description of her encounter with God/faith in Chapter 11 has on understanding...

From Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire, can you please help clarify what effect the narrator's description of her encounter with God/faith in Chapter 11 has on understanding her as a narrator and an author?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire, the mother aims to teach her privileged daughter about her origins, culture and far more than history books and folk tales could expose her to. These stories aim to help Zenzele define herself as a modern, African woman. By chapter 11, it is clear that Zenzele needs an African perspective but one that is heartfelt and personal; otherwise she may not be able to relate to it. Her mother's personal perspective is the most valuable legacy she can leave for her daughter without being opinionated or biased; making her descriptions relevant, and therefore ensuring that there has been no exaggeration for the purposes of storytelling which would often be the case in traditional storytelling. This will hopefully ensure that Zenzele learns from and embraces her mother's words. Her mother knows that she is dying and Zenzele may need answers to questions only she, as her mother, can answer. The descriptions are well-thought out, but as Zenzele's mother understands only too well, her explanations are open to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Her descriptions in chapter 11 help her as narrator and author of the letter (the form the novel takes) reach far more people than just her own daughter. 

Having started out as a private (albeit one way) interaction where the mother recognizes that she can provide Zenzele with an acceptance for tradition and its place by using stories from her own experience and knowledge, she begins to find answers for herself as well. For example, Lobola, considered to be a "price" which must be paid when a man wants to marry, is a widely misunderstood concept and by moving away Zenzele will avoid exposure to it but it is essential in appreciating and understanding her background. Otherwise, there is a risk of "accepting the Western anthropologists' view of our culture" (ch 3). This is the main aim of the novel with numerous life experiences which the mother shares with Zenzele.

As Zenzele is a well-educated Zimbabwean who has gone to study in the USA, her mother wants to remind her of those things that make her who she is. To ensure that she and her husband "fulfilled our responsibility as African parents" (ch 2), she provides insight into practices and customs and warns Zenzele about the devastating effects of racism, regardless of how successful, prosperous or educated she might be. She makes a most profound comment when relating these stories to her daughter and she says "To her you are neither short, tall, funny,... your three dimensions are black-by-black-by-black" (ch 6). This is leading to her final assessment which has the ability to unite Zenzele with her people rather than set her apart, such as the story of Zenzele's mother's cousin reveals. 

Her intentions are apparent when, in Chapter 11 she, as not only Zenzele's mother, but as the narrator and the author of the letter, searches within herself, perhaps expanding her own views and realizing that she and her daughter can be African women without compromising themselves. Being "created in God's image" is very significant because it represents her own part in preserving her heritage. She must help "to complete and preserve the work that was started." She believes that Zenzele can be as much a part of it even if she has a worldview very different from many other Zimbabweans. Her words resonate worldwide to people of all nations and races who should assess themselves after reading this novel.