Shortly after winning the 2009 PEN/Studzinski Literary Award, NoViolet Mhka Bulawayo talks with Mazwi, a Zimbabwean Journal, about her writing.
Do you have a writing community, ie, other Zimbabwean or African writers you interact with or you find the place isolating and if so is this isolation good or bad?
I'm in an MFA program so yes, I have a writing community. I have no interaction with Zimbabwean and African writers on a workshop level, so on that basis, I am "isolated." It's a double-edged sword—In the past I would crave that specific common ground that would come with interacting with writers from my own background, and that happened when I felt like my mates didn't "get" what I was trying to do. I'm over that now, not having that common ground means I have to forge a new one, and for me that is humanity. It means I have to stand on another level, to go beyond "Zimbabwean-ness" and "African-ness" in my writing, that space without the "burdens" of identity. Actually I've come to appreciate it as liberating, so I guess I can confidently say, it's good, very good, even though it took me a while to get here.
What is your inspiration and does that influence what you write about? Any favourate writers?
Humanity. "Womanity." My homeland. As for writers I'd say Yvonne Vera inspires me more than any other writer because I care about the same things she cares about; from the poetic grace of language to (feminist) themes to the writer's spirit of courage, that bravery to say things that would not normally be said. If she wasn't in the picture I don't think I'd have the courage to write about things I'm writing about. In as much as she is an influence, however, I believe I'm also my own writer and doing my own thing. Don't get me started on my favorite writers but they include Maxine Hong Kingston, Edwidge Danticat, Jean Toomer, Barbara Kingsolver, Daniel Defoe, The Brontes, Jhumpa Lahiri.