Paradise is a shanty where men’s eyes never lift from their draughts, under the jacaranda trees and women are busy with hair and talk, children on the other hand have no choice but to go steal guavas in Budapest due to their hunger.
People in Paradise once had real houses that were demolished by bulldozers, forcing them to come to shanties. The 10 year old Darling narrates how the demolishers even killed a baby in the debris.
Every chapter in Bulawayo’s book can stand as a short story, because she talks of different things related to the desperate situation in their country- Zimbabwe. I think the writer uses the voice of a child so as to lighten the issues she addresses.
Hunger and poverty
They live in tin houses and share the same room. Darling narrates how a strange man comes at night, sleeps with her mother and leaves while it’s still dark.
She describes the hunger they feel. It’s as if someone scooped the insides of their stomachs. They steal guavas because of the hunger, even though it makes them constipated.
Mother of Bones, Darling’s grandmother wears mismatched shoes, like a mad woman, yet she is not mad. She has worthless money in her suitcase that she counts everyday and wonders why she cannot use it.
Children are no longer in school because the teachers left the country.
Dead foreign aid
The Chinese are building a big mall for them, yet they cannot afford to feed themselves.
The NGO people come with their lorries to give them rations of food, clothes and toys. The children as well as parents actually look forward to these moments. They pose for photos all the time, something they have rehearsed only too well.
People are fleeing the country to other countries where there are better prospects. They do not want to remain in the “kaka” country.
Most men leave their wives and children behind to go work in the mines and forget them. They only come back home when they are sick and dying.
Some are fleeing from the government because they fear being killed. Governments are against democracy. It’s a form of Neocolonialism where the people of the land have turned into oppressors.
This is refereed to as ‘the sickness’, and is something that is spoken of in whispers, showing the shame associated with it. Darling’s father returns home with the sickness and interrupts her life because she cannot play with her mates. She has to look after him and keep it a secret from everyone.
There’s a connection between Mother of bones and her referring to her ‘father’s bones’.
Those who have sought refuge in religion are fanatics. Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro, is the religious authority who exorcises demons and extorts money from the already impoverished folk in exchange for prayers.
Darling thinks the god to whom they pray is a sadist who ignores their pleas. So the adults are just wasting their time. Only when she gets to America, does she reach into the dustbin of her heart and retrieve God, because she has more than enough food.
Incest and abortion
Chipo is only 11, yet she is pregnant. Her grandfather raped her when her grandmother went to the market.
The girls plan to remove Chipo’s stomach, yet they are clueless. Only one of them, Forgiveness seems to have an idea. She is busy straightening a rusty clothes hunger for the task. This scene raises the hairs on my head because I am thinking what would happen if they succeed. Chipo could die because doctors are not in hospitals. They have all gone for ‘greener pastures’.
Everyone wishes to go to America, yet after they stay there, they cannot return to their land due to lack of papers. Even when their parents die, they can not return to bury them and mourn behind closed doors, fearing to attract undue attention.
In America, they cannot raise their children the way they were raised because instilling discipline is considered child abuse.
Reliance on kin abroad
People back in the country rely too much on handouts from those ‘lucky enough’ to go to America. Those in America struggle to put up a show that they are prospering, working multiple jobs to send money back home. “Our parents have stopped being our providers, we are now their parents”.
The kin abroad have bought fancy houses for their folk back home, while they live in houses made of planks.
Get your copy and enjoy the humor, while you see the reality in some of our African countries.