The three-genre anthology "Passage of Life" (2018) by new writer Tabeth Ruvarashe Manyonga was launched recently in Harare.
"Passage of Life" is an anthology imbued with a menu of 48 poems, five short stories and a play, with many of the pieces having a deep concern for the teenagers, girls in particular. The young girls in high school or college who shun enlightenment or education learn their life lessons the hardest way. Although the leading characters are female, the boys have some lessons to draw from the stories as well as the poems.
With the way the book is packaged, it was alright to read from the end to beginning, that is, from the end where the short stories and the play are put, then read last the poetry section.
Manyonga seems to love the vignette form of a short story as reflected in her book. A vignette is defined as a brief but delicately executed sketch, either standing alone or part of a larger work.
Manyonga's shortest story, "The Love I Thought Good Was Not", fills in one page only and it has an unnamed, deeply hurt girl narrator who has misleading feelings of love and jumps into a love affair only to realize it's a "world of sharing" lovers!
The reader can feel the agonies and despair of characters like Shanduko and Ruva in other stories and yet, not forgetting her purpose, the author turns the characters from victims to victors. Shanduko in 'Life Is An Uphill Struggle' cares less about education, for she is deceived by her parents' wealth. Parental guidance lacks in her life also. When her parents die, hell is let loose upon her. In this story and in the other one 'The Bad Side of Culture' we are shown how culture ignores the rights of the girl child. Poor Shanduko is raped by her uncle and ends up homeless after she reports him to the police.
"... Even if he did, he is your husband so he can do whatever he feels like doing with you. Now don't tell anyone handiti ka?" the aunt tells Shanduko before justice catches up with the rapist.
In the play 'Broken Heart' the strange attitude or character of Tamia, the girl who's chasing after boys, comes out vividly and she learns her lesson in a very humiliating way. Most of the action happens at the boarding school.
Some of Manyonga's poems are like voices of the main characters in the short stories, now expressing individually their different feelings about people, events/circumstances they have met or gone through. We see the poet in Manyonga getting possessed as she sings and teaches the world the meaning of true love and friendship, internal beauty, repentance, brevity, etc.
Surely, powerful girls-oriented books like "Passage of Life" should be available in high school libraries because they have the answers to the physical and mental confusions of growing up which teenagers find hard to manage or control on their own.