Book review – We are all Zimbabweans now

2010-09-25 12:17

Zimbabwe just fresh from ­independence victory in 1980 comes alive in this ­political thriller.

?The words ­successfully bring to life former guerrillas now working to build a new country.

They capture in intimate detail the mood of a newly born nation full of hope for the future as it emerges from an oppressive and bloody past.

Author James Kilgore succeeds in bringing the characters and the places to life, so that at some point the ­reader might be forgiven for believing that?the?story?is?actually a ­biographical account.

Kilgore began writing this book in a US jail in 2003 while serving time for his activities with the 1970s US rebel group the Symbionese Liberation ­Army.

He was arrested in Cape Town in 2002 after more than 30 years on the run and extradited to the US.

Perhaps the arrest was a blessing in disguise for it was in jail that he penned his maiden novel – and what a pleasurable read it has turned out to be.

In short and without giving much of the story away:

We Are All Zimbabweans Now is the story of an American research student who, buoyed by the heroics of the liberation war hero, Robert ­Mugabe, sets off for that country to conduct research for his university degree.

He arrives at a time of mixed ­emotions and hopes, when most whites – refusing to accept the reality of majority black rule and uncertain of the future – are leaving the country.

While the majority of black people are still in celebratory mood but ­beginning to sense the signs of a ­liberation ­movement slowly turning into a dictatorship that intimidates dissenting voices and quietly ­unleashes a reign of terror on its own people in what was then known as the Gukurahundi.

During the course of his research, the American falls in love with a ­Shona woman.

He gets immersed in Zimbabwe’s everyday life and learns the Shona language.

He even comes to the ­attention of the feared Central Intelligence Organisation when he starts asking questions about a ­liberation war hero, Elias ­Tichasara, who died in mysterious ­circumstances towards the end of the war.

The mystery of Tichasara’s death is somehow much more similar to that of real-life war hero, Josiah ­Tongogara, which makes one wonder if the ­author didn’t perhaps blur the lines between fiction and reality too much?

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