Why Don't You Carve Other Animals by Yvonne Vera

I am hesitant to publish this review of Yvonne Vera’s Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals. I love Yvonne Vera as a writer, I am very fascinated by the way she writes about war and conflict. In The Stone Virgins (2002), Vera writes about the Gukurahundi, a massacre that took place in the early 1980s in Matebeleland Zimbabwe. Even in my confusion (which I am sure many people who have read The Stone Virgins can relate to), I never lost the sense that something terrible and silent was happening around me as I read the book, and that is the very real legacy and reality of this tragedy. Vera was 16 years old at the time Zimbabwe became independent. The emotional weight of her writing reveals an intimate knowledge of war and death in a way our collective memory through history books cannot bring to life. Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals is a collection of short stories. I am not a fan of books of short stories or anthologies. It easy to review a book that is packaged as a single piece of work. Unfortunately, there are always going to be stories that are more interesting than others, one or two meh stories can bring down the group average (lol). Themes and storylines may feel similar and the entire collection seems repetitive. I read it anyway. Having previously read Without A Name (1994), I knew that Vera could write something short and yet powerful. Sadly, Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals did not live up to my expectations. This collection focuses only on the experiences of those who “stayed behind” during the liberation war of Zimbabwe, those who continued to work on farms, work as vendors etc. These people are a part of Zimbabwean history, but their daily lives are uninteresting, the potential of these stories is cut short by the format chosen by the author. I also know that Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals was the first book Vera ever published. If I had known this prior, I would have tried to read her books in order. Without A Name (1994) was published a mere two years after Why Don’t you Carve Other Animals, but the difference in how Vera approaches short stories and novels is admirable and inspiring. The book is a light read compared to Vera’s other works, but certainly not as captivating as the others. If I had to rate it out of 5 stars, I would give this collection 3 stars.