Winner of the 1997 Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Africa Region)
A Finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award
Yvonne Vera's novels chronicle the lives of Zimbabwean women with extraordinary power and beauty. Without a Name and Under the Tongue, her two earliest novels, are set in the seventies during the guerrilla war against the white government.
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. Destitute, she is led by fear and desperation to commit an unthinkable act.
With Under the Tongue (1996), Vera became the first Zimbabwean writer ever to deal frankly with the problem of incest that plagued the country. When Zhizha is raped by her father, a self-styled war hero, she loses all desire and ability to speak. Her relationships with her mother—jailed for killing her husband after discovering his brutal acts—and her grandmother evoke profound meditations on the nature and necessity of language and expression, and on the affinity between silence and sorrow: "A word does not rot unless it is carried in the mouth for too long, under the tongue." Under the Tongue won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region).