Author Profile: Yvonne Vera

Yvonne Vera was a Zimbabwean short-story writer, art director and novelist. She was born in Bulawayo in then Rhodesia on September 19, 1964. Her debut book was a collection of short stories, Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals (1992), after which she published the following novels, Nehanda (1993), Without a Name (1994), Under the Tongue (1996), Butterfly Burning (1998) and The Stone Virgins (2002). She was among the few writers to ever write about the little-known genocide that took place in Matebeleland, Zimbabwe in 1983 in her novel The Stone Virgins (2002). Through Vera’s intimate knowledge of war, conflict and womanhood, Vera broached taboo subjects that highlighted the additional suffering of women in times of war and/or political unrest. For her last novel, she won the Macmillan Prize for African Adult Fiction. She passed away on April 7, 2005

Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals (1992)

The place is white ruled Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) of the 1970s, the exile, the African in his or her own land. Young men and women flee from their towns and villages to join the freedom fighters in the forests. These stories, set during the years of the armed struggle, tell the story of those who stayed behind. Told essentially, from the women’s point of view, in lyrical but unaffected prose, the stories recreate the dark atmosphere of those months full of fear and hope. - Mawenzi House

Nehanda (1993)

In the late nineteenth century white settlers and administrators arrive to occupy the African country of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia). Nehanda, a village girl, is recognized through omens and portents as a saviour. The resulting uprising by the Africans is brutally crushed but looks forward to the war of independence that succeeded a century later. Told in lucid, poetic prose, this is a gripping story about the first meeting of a people with their colonizer. - Macmillan

Without a Name (1994)

In Without a Name (1994), Mazvita, a young woman from the country, travels to Harare to escape the war and begin a new life. But her dreams of independence are short-lived. She begins a relationship of convenience and becomes pregnant. - Macmillan

Under the Tongue (1996)

In Under the Tongue (1996), the adolescent Zhizha has lost the will to speak. In lyrical fragments, Vera relates the story of Zhizha's parents, and the horrifying events that led to her mother's imprisonment and her father's death. With this novel Vera became the first Zimbabwean writer ever to deal frankly with incest. With these surprising, at times shocking novels Vera shows herself to be a writer of great potential. - Macmillan

Butterfly Burning (1998)

Butterfly Burning (1998) brings the brilliantly poetic voice of Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera to American readers for the first time. Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late 1940s, the novel is an intensely bittersweet love story. When Fumbatha, a construction worker, meets the much younger Phephelaphi, he"wants her like the land beneath his feet from which birth had severed him." He in turn fills her "with hope larger than memory." But Phephelaphi is not satisfied with their "one-room" love alone. The qualities that drew Fumbatha to her, her sense of independence and freedom, end up separating them. And the closely woven fabric of township life, where everyone knows everyone else, has a mesh too tight and too intricate to allow her to escape her circumstances on her own. Vera exploits language to peel away the skin of public and private lives. In Butterfly Burning (1998) she captures the ebullience and the bitterness of township life, as well as the strength and courage of her unforgettable heroine. - Macmillan

The Stone Virgins (2002)

Winner of the Macmillan Prize for African Adult Fiction

In 1980, after decades of guerilla war against colonial rule, Rhodesia earned its hard-fought-for independence from Britain. Less than two years thereafter when Mugabe rose to power in the new Zimbabwe, it signaled the begining of brutal civil unrest that would last nearly a half decade more.

With The Stone Virgins Yvonne Vera examines the dissident movement from the perspective of two sisters living in a small township outside of Bulawayo. In a portrait painted in successive impressions of life before and after the liberation, Vera explores the quest for dignity and a centered existence against a backdrop of unimaginable violence; the twin instincts of survival and love; the rival pulls of township and city life; and mankind's capacity for terror, beauty, and sacrifice. One sister will find a reason for hope. One will not make it through alive.

Weaving historical fact within a story of grand passions and striking endurance, Vera has gifted us with a powerful and provocative testament to the resilience of the Zimbabwean people. - Macmillan