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Parallel Lines: a review

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Title: Parallel Lines
Author: Norah Spie
Publisher: Braiswick UK (2005)

“That was the problem. I felt I had to wait and see what comes my way instead of me shaping up my own destiny. I had a burning desire to control my life, but how could I if what I wanted was in parallel lines with me?” (p. 177)

Parallel lines, in maths, are two lines on a plane that move in the same direction and stay the same distance apart but never meet.

In Norah Spie’s memoir, these lines are used metaphorically to express and trace her life’s physical and emotional journeys growing up in post-independent Zimbabwe.

Centred around her memories, sometimes experienced and at other times developed from the experiences of others around her, are the challenges of being the first born in a family of two, being raised by a single mother, love, body image, the unwritten social decorum of how a young black woman is supposed to behave, sexism in and the cut-throat nature of the print media industry, the experiences of working for an NGO then for a state-run newspaper and finally the restless urge to seek a better life outside Zimbabwe.

In Spie’s life described the reader sees a reflection of not only the deteriorating economical structures that led many black and white Zimbabweans to leave the country in search of greener pastures but also the Zimbabwe that Zimbabwe used to be which made it difficult and often painful for Spie and others like her to leave the country.

What is ironic about this, as Spie points out, is that many Zimbabweans were desperate to leave the country from 2000-2007 but many (German, English, Irish, and Russian…) were flocking to the country and setting up NGOs and numerous organisations to “help”.

Spie recounts an altercation that she had with a friend-of-a-friend, Anna, who happened to be from England and working for an NGO. They were having drinks at Tipperary’s and talking about the situation in the country.

“Then somewhere along the way there was the question of whether the British should have paid the promised compensation. That is when Anna and me got into a heated argument..We had all the right to have our land back, and at the end of the day it was people like Anna who gave wrong information to their bosses in London about what was happening and yet they spend half their time enjoying our sun and living in luxurious houses that in England she would only dream of… ”
White Zimbabweans have rights too,’ she said and walked away to her car” (p.80-1).

Such is Spie’s character and the nature of the issues that her memoir reflects upon.

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