Letter to Makhosazana Xaba on Running and Other Stories

By Panashe Chigumadzi (@panashechig) 

Our editor Panashe shares an email sent to author Makhosazana Xaba literally minutes after reading her short story anthology. In it she finds an impressive work of imagination – not only for the plots that follow a diverse set of women’s lives but for the ways in which the author experimented with voice and structure. This is a daring work that even sees Xaba attempt two of her own versions of Can Themba’s classic story ‘The Suit’ and succeed at it. 

Excerpt from the story Inside:

Bhekiwe shuts the door with a bang. Didn’t Zodwa remember what she’d told her about her father’s repeated encounters with death? After a while, she opens the door again and returns to her seat in the kitchen. 

“Sorry, Bheks, I didn’t mean it that way.”

“Sure, no sweat. Where are we?”

“Your women bead-jewellery makers, their life stories versus their economic survival and problems with labour laws.”

“Ja, well, for my sanity. I think I’ll stick to personal histories. It makes more sense. And it’s simpler.”

“Talking of personal histories – I need to shower, my period is on. You don’t mind waiting right? Go listen to some music in the lounge. We’ll carry on talking about your research afterwards while I make us breakfast.”

“Zo, what has your period got to do with personal histories?”

“Well, let’s see, I started menstruating the day before my fifteenth birthday. I’m thirty two years old. That’s seventeen years, 204 months of bleeding. But I missed six months when I was 19 because of medication I was on. In 1985, I was in prison during the State of Emergency, and my period disappeared. Stress, I think but it was only three months. I’ve been regular since. That brings us down to 195 months. Can you imagine how many litres of blood that is?”

Zodwa stands up, smiles with her head slanted to the left, and disappears into the bathroom.

Bhekiwe drinks her coffee and ponders. The talk of menstrual  blood has awakened her vagina. She feels a sudden seeping of juices and smiles to herself. 

RunningCover

The email: 

Dear MmeKhosi,

I hope you’ve had a great start to the year.

I just wanted to drop by and thank you for an amazing literary experience courtesy of Running And Other Stories. I had just come out of a long spell of reading non-fiction and yours was the first fiction book I had read in about a month. 

Needless to say I had much work to do that didn’t get done, because I finished the book in one day. 

As you know, like a young person from the community, I just wanna say, I, really, uh, you know, like what you had to say, you know. Like how you said it. It was kinda like, awesome. And, kinda, how do you say, uncanny, how you captured the nuances in the voices of the, you know, youth. You know the feeling when, like, someone, like, makes you feel naked with, like, how well they kinda like get into your mind? Ya, well, like, ya, that was me. [Reader note: see People of the Valley]

The cheek of The Suit Continued: The Other Side! I went to read The Suit again, and the feminist and writer in me much preferred your version!

The deliciousness, if that’s a word, in The Odds of Dakar. I don’t know why that word, but something from that story made me think that and want to visit Senegal.

That pious old man who couldn’t keep his hands to himself – urgh…

I won’t, excuse my language, kiss your ass anymore because I really have something to say about each story. I haven’t felt moved by fiction like that in a while.

Thank you.

I hope to write like you one day.

Panashe 

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