Bookish: RUMBIDZAI MAKANGA
RUMBIDZAI MAKANGA runs The 1980 Alliance and Celebrate Zimbabwe, platforms to connect young Zimbabweans and share Zimbabwean stories. She has a strong interest in seeing more Zimbabwean stories told and archived for present and future generations.
- What was the first book you read?
I don't remember unfortunately, but I have a distinct memory of reading anything I could get a hold of: computer manuals, newspapers - anything. The result was that I ended up quite well-read because I was consuming such a variety of texts. I wish I could get that joy back - of just reading words. I think before I loved poetry or prose, I really just loved words.
- What’s your favorite quote from a book?
I don't have a single quote, but if I did I imagine it would come from one of Toni Morrison's works. I do like the opening of Junot Diaz's 'The Sun, the Moon, the Stars' though: "I'm not a bad guy. I know how that sounds - defensive, unscrupulous - but it's true." Whenever someone says to me that they're not a bad guy, I refer them to that.
- What do you prefer reading: fiction or non-fiction and why?
I can't say that I have a preference; I think each has its own merits. You can pick up really well-crafted non-fiction books and it can move you (or maybe just me) as much as a beautifully written fiction book. I can also read non-fiction quicker, so I tend to like to intersperse my reading list with non-fiction to refresh my brain!
- What’s your favorite place to read a book?
I grew up reading everywhere and anywhere. The train can be a very satisfying place to read. Bed on a quiet day or the comfy corner of the sofa is also highly-rated.
- Which author, dead or alive would you like to have a conversation with?
The ideal thing to be happen is if I was able to just sit and listen to Toni Morrison, spend a day in the head of Junot Diaz, and have a conversation with Amos Tutuola.
- Can you name a book that you’ve never read but always planned on reading some day?
Too many books, most notably recent releases like Homegoing, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, No Place to Call Home, Stay With Me, plus some classic African literature, especially women authors like Mariam Ba and Buchi Echemeta.
- What do you look for in a book?
My book choice depends heavily on mood, but I've found that the thread connecting the books I seek out is how beautiful the writing is. Outside of that, I read books because the look interesting, because I like the author, because it's highly reviewed, and if I'm being truthful, I read a lot of books simply because they are written by African authors. I also love Latin American fiction, and I've been trying to read more Indian fiction as well.
- Which book would you take with you to a deserted island?
I'd take a big book that I haven't yet read. Something like A Brief History of Seven Killings or Wizard of the Crow.
- What would the title of your memoir be?
I Used to Live There. I feel like I read that somewhere first, though, so I'd have to check!
- Which person do you know personally is the best storyteller, and why?
I think the women in my family are good storytellers. My grandmother used to tell me a lot of traditional stories when I was young - I'm sad to have forgotten most of them. I think she instilled a love of stories in me. My aunts and uncles were very good at telling stories as well, though, when we were children. In our culture, stories are a linguistic vehicle for a whole variety of things. My aunts and uncles frequently used stories to scare me or to coerce me towards or away certain things. For example, when my aunt ate food off my plate, she would concoct comprehensive stories about how it had disappeared. It worked for a troublingly long time.
- What do you prefer: audio book or e-book?
I'm a traditionalist. Physical paper books all the way. I prefer audio books to e-books, though, especially in foreign languages. It's a sleep-inducer and education rolled into one.
- What was your favorite African story growing up, and why?
I think the story that really planted a seed in me is the story of Nyaminyami, the Zambezi snake spirit. I remember reading the story in primary school, in Shona I think, and being captivated by the mystery. It's a story that is steeped in culture, legend, and a healthy dose of 'sightings'. I was very uninterested in whether it was true or not when I read it, but I was captivated by the story and how it moved me.