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Shadreck Chikoti makes it in Zimbabwean author’s 10 favourite books

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CHIKOTI—I cried when I read the article

Renowned Zimbabwean novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga has shared her thoughts on her best 10 books which she would read and take to a desert island.

The list of the 10 books includes Azotus the Kingdom by the country’s award winning writer Shadreck Chikoti.

Tsitsi, a filmmaker, playwright, and the director of the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa Trust, who lives in Harare, described the 10 books as amazing with great stories.

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Sharing her thoughts on www.vulture.com, Tsitsi listed the 10 titles starting off with a book titled An Image in a Mirror by Ijangolet Qgwang.

She said of the novel that it is a wonderfully charming coming of age novel which explores national differences through the lens of teenage twin girls, one adopted in South Africa and one who remains behind with the girls’ mother in Uganda.

The other book is A Man Who is Not a Man by Thando Mgqolozana – this is a sensitive, heartbreaking novel that tells the story of a young man who leaves his no-good father’s Cape Town abode to travel back to his mother’s Xhosa village where he is made to undergo initiation.

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On third position is Chikoti’s Azotus the Kingdom. This is a book that won Chikoti the Peer Gynt Award in 2013.

“Azotus: The Kingdom is a quietly compelling gem of African speculative fiction. Published in 2015 before Covid-19 pandemic, it describes how the human need to reach out and connect triumphs in a world in which all human contact is banned or strictly controlled,” reads the brief description of the novel.

Chikoti who last year attended an international writing residency in United States of America, said it meant a lot for her book to be recognized among top 10 in Tsitsi’s collection.

“It means a lot. I cried when I read the article. To be recognized by such big names is not a small thing for me and also for Malawi as a country. This is so deep and I am encouraged to do more,” he said.

Chikoti described Tsitsi as a strong feminist from the 1980s.

“The big idea is that Tsitsi is an international writer who has been writing for decades and she is a leading female movie producer and writer in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Tsitsi has inspired a lot of writers and during one of the workshops at Madsoc Theatre in Lilongwe organised by Story Club, she encouraged writers not to be afraid but write.

“We have lots and lots of stories which we need to tell them. Let us be brave enough and write them. Let us not be afraid of making mistakes. Africa is a home to many stories and so we need to write as part of growing our writing industry,” Tsitsi said.

The other books are Small Country by Gael Faye, The Abduction and Trial of Jestina Mukoko by Jestina Mukoko, Young Blood by Sifiso Mzobe, Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda, There was a Country by Chinua Achebe and The Theory of Flight by Siphiwe Ndlovu.

Tsitsi this year made history for Africa when she was shortlisted in the 2020 Booker Prize.

Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English speaking world, which has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over 50 years.

The prize is awarded annually to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

Tsitsi was shortlisted and went all the way as a finalist and missed out on the top prize.

However, she showed that Africa is there on top when it comes to writing by being among the finalists.

Apart from Tsitsi, the list of finalists included Diane Cook, the winner – Douglas Stuart, Avni Doshi, Maaza Mengiste and Brandon Taylor.

Tsitsi was shortlisted with her novel The Mournable Body.

She told Booker Prize after being longlisted that she has not been long listed for many prizes in her writing career and that her long listing was a vindication of the hours and decades she had put into trying to be a good writer – “one who has something meaningful to say for readers, that is also important to me and says it convincingly. It’s a relief finally to enjoy this kind of recognition”.

Tsitsi who has had sessions in the country through Story Club is also the author of two previous novels, including Nervous Conditions, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

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