Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Breaking the Silence: An Examination of the Single Mother's Voice in an HIV Environment-Tendayi Westerhof's Unlucky in Love

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Breaking the Silence: An Examination of the Single Mother's Voice in an HIV Environment-Tendayi Westerhof's Unlucky in Love

Article excerpt


Trends have shown that writing is a male domain, and the act of writing alone is a positive development on the part of the woman. The writing of an autobiography by Tendayi Westerhof opens a new avenue on contemporary women's issues. The narrative tackles the challenges of single motherhood, career/celebrity experiences of a woman as well as HIV. Westerhof also goes a yard further by harnessing activism to her work. Not only does she offer a personal testimony, but she also takes the initiative to spread awareness regarding the pandemic and the vulnerability of women. Being HIV positive, Westerhof lends a voice to the voiceless women by exploring their experiences in a number of ways; through the conventional, ordinary woman/growing girl, the woman as a single mother, the woman and HIV, the woman in a mixed marriage and the woman as a survivor. Hers is a complex narrative which offers insights into the challenges that contemporary women face. She brings to the fore the stigma that is often associated with HIV, a feat which must have taken a lot of courage and willpower. This paper interrogates the extent to which the narrator is successful in recounting her story.


Tendense het getoon dat skryf die domein van die man is, en dat die blote handeling van skryf 'n positiewe ontwikkeling aan die kant van die vrou is. Die skryf van 'n outobiografie deur Tendayi Westerhof bled 'n nuwe perspektief op kontemporere vrouekwessies. Die narratief pak die uitdagings van enkelmoederskap, Ioopbaan-/ selebriteit-ervarings van 'n vrou asook MIV. Westerhof gaan verder deur aktivisme by haar werk in te span. Nie net gee sy 'n persoonlike getuienis hie, maar sy neem ook die inisiatief om bewustheid van die pandemie en die kwesbaarheid van vroue te versprei. Westerhof, wat MIV-positief is, gee 'n stem aan die stemlose vroue deur hulle ondervindings op 'n aantal maniere te verken; deur die konvensionele, gewone vrou/groeiende meisie, die vrou as 'n enkelmoeder, die vrou en MIV, die vrou in 'n gemengde huwelik en die vrou as 'n oorlewende. Haar narratief is kompleks en gee insig in die uitdagings waarvoor vroue vandag te staan kom. Sy bring die stigma na vore wat dikwels met MIV gepaardgaan, wat baie moed en wilskrag moes geverg het. Hierdie referaat ondersoek die mate waarin die verteller geslaag het met die vertel van haar verhaal.


Most African autobiographies are recollections of prominent people or equally significant events and are largely political or historical. Southern African autobiographies of this nature such as Fay Chung's recent Re-living the Second Chimurenga (2006), and Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom (1995) recount the stories of political figures in their struggles for independence from colonialism. Some local autobiographies have moved away from this trend and have attempted to chronicle events of ordinary and the not so prominent individuals' lives. Many of these have come in fictional form thus leading to the emergence of a new genre of fictional autobiography or semi-autobiography as some scholars would put it. This presents us with a problem as to how to distinguish fiction from fact for, as Dennet (1992: 96) has pointed out, there is a degree of autobiography in every work of fiction and "it takes a real self to create a fictional self". Fictional autobiographies are a common phenomenon and many writers have written using this genre, including Ezekiel Mphahlele (Down Second Avenue (1959)) and Dumbudzo Marechera (House of Hunger (1978)), and male writers have mainly dominated the genre. Tendayi Westerhof thus joins the rather short but growing list of Zimbabwean women who use this genre as a way of expressing their innermost worries, fears, anxieties as well as hopes. These include Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions (1988), more recently Lutanga Shaba's The Secrets of a Woman's Soul (2005) and Dangarembga's sequel to Nervous Conditions, The Book of Not (2006). …

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