Top 5 Black female Zimbabwean writers everyone should know4 minute read

Whether you fancy yourself a wordsmith or a bibliophile or you just want to be informed and inspired here are Zimbabwe’s finest literary exports.  

  1.     Dr. Yvonne Vera (September 19, 1964 – April 7, 2005).
    Yvonne Vera
    was a multi-award-winning novelist, the Editor of Opening Spaces: An Anthology of Contemporary African Women’s Writing and an innovative museum director. Ms. Afropolitan has credited her as an inspiring African feminist activist who is “one of my teachers that I never met, one of the world’s most gifted writers who left a rich legacy of work behind that opens the heart so full of love it simultaneously splashes, jumps, dances.” Her last novel The Stone Virgins, which was awarded the Macmillan Prize for African Adult Fiction. I highly recommend my personal favorite Why don’t you carve other animals (a collection of short stories) and Nehanda which received Second Prize for the Zimbabwean Publishers Literary Award for Fiction in English and a special mention for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa Region.

Memorable Quote:

“We walked in wisdom with our shadows, in search of the dead part of ourselves, which would be our shelter.”

Yvonne Vera, in Nehanda

  1.     Tsitsi Dagaremba

Tsitsi Dagaremba is famously for her masterpiece Nervous Conditions which won the 1989 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Fiction selected as one of the ‘Top Ten Books of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century’ by a Pan African Initiative in 2002. When Nervous Conditions was published it was the first English-language novel by a black Zimbabwean woman and it was “considered too radically feminist for conservative Zimbabwe, the novel was rejected locally and eventually published by the Women’s Press in London.” In addition to novels Dagaremba also wrote a play, She No Longer Weeps on which the screenplay for the film Neria was based.

Memorable Quote:

“I was not sorry when my brother died,”

– Tsitsi Dagaremba in Nervous Conditions

  1.     Petina Gappah
    Up until
    August 2016 Petina Gappah’s day job was in law quite like Simply Cyn. Now she is DAAD Artist-In-Residence fellow and when she is not writing she is teaching or consulting on international law. Her debut collection of short stories An Elegy for Easterly was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Orwell Prize and it was awarded the Guardian First Book Prize. Her novel The Book of Memory won the McKitterick Prize from the Society of Authors.

Memorable Quote:

“Like the worthless dogs that are his countrymen, my husband believed that his penis was wasted if he was faithful to just one woman. – At the Sound of the Last Post”

Petina Gappah, An Elegy for Easterly: Stories

  1.     NoViolet Bulawayo

NoViolet Bulawayo
was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She is a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University. Before that, she was a Truman Capote Fellow at Cornell University where she graduated with an MFA. Her debut novel, We Need New Names made the New York Times Notable Books list of 2013 and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Man Booker Prize. The book was awarded and won the following awards; the Etisalat Prize for Literature, the Pen/Hemingway Award, the LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and others. Her story “Hitting Budapest” earned the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2011.

Memorable Quote:

When things fall apart, the children of the land scurry and scatter like birds escaping a burning sky….They will never be the same again because you cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same….Look at them leaving in droves, despite knowing they will be welcomed with restraint in those strange lands because they do not belong

– NoViolet Bulawayo

  1. Danai Gurira

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Danai Gurira is known and loved by Walking Dead fans (myself included) for her portrayal of Michonne and she will soon be known as Okoye from Wakanda in Marvel’s Black Panther. In addition to acting Gurira has made her mark as a playwright. Her first play In the Continuum won an Obie her play Eclipsed made history when it premiered on Broadway with an all black and female cast. What’s more, the cast were all women of African descent. It was nominated for six Tony Awards in 2016 including Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for Lupita Nyong’o and Gueria was the only female writer nominated that year. Her latest offering, Familiar, according to Elle,“depicts a wealthy emigrant family from Zimbabwe as they prepare for their eldest daughter’s wedding to her white fiancé, a human-rights activist.” For her memorable quote, I’ve chosen something she said which reflects the common thread in her work.

Memorable Quote:

I write about African women, that’s really my topic. I have no shame or qualm in it because it’s a very underrepresented topic, which is part of the reason I started to write.

Danai Gurira


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Julia Chanda Zvobgo is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Of Africa’. She was born in Zimbabwe and raised in The Netherlands. As an Afropean she is always looking for new and creative ways to “make the invisible, visible”. She is a co-founder and a member of 'ethnovision' a collective of visual anthropologists and filmmakers. Julia also volunteers as the Director of Communications & Development for Tariro House of Hope, an NGO that transforms the lives of children and their communities in Zimbabwe.