A couple of months ago, a NetGalley email alerted me to some exciting “Read Now” books that were available. One in particular caught my eye: Send Her Back and Other Stories by Munashe Kaseke. This collection of short stories offers myriad accounts of what it’s like to be a Zimbabwean immigrant living in the United States. It’s a heartfelt and thoughtful debut, and it’s available today. I loved it and will be buying a physical copy!
Special thanks to NetGalley and Mukana Press for providing me with an ARC of this book!
As soon as I saw the title for Send Her Back and Other Stories, I recalled the horrible chants against Representative Ilhan Omar at a Trump rally in 2019. They were racist, xenophobic, and filled with hate. Sadly, this negative view of immigrants – especially those of color or who are Muslim – is widespread in America. Indeed, according to the author’s note, that 2019 event is part of what sparked the idea for the titular story in this collection. It and the other stories show the often ugly truth of what it can be like for immigrants.
Across 16 stories, we get to see what Zimbabwean women face in America. Some of the characters are university students, others are undocumented immigrants. Some live with their family in the U.S., others send money home to loved ones still in Zimbabwe. The stories span career, love, family, and a tenuous sense of belonging in a country and culture so different than what they grew up with.
In truth, many of these stories are harrowing. They paint a very real picture of the struggles immigrants can go through. Overt racism and micro-aggressions alike can add up; navigating the dating world and getting into interracial relationships can be disappointing. Some characters are well-off financially, but others work 80 hours a week, sending money back to their family, and still can’t get by. Some characters struggle with how much they’ve changed since leaving Zimbabwe and how their husband doesn’t seem to fit in their life anymore.
While I appreciated those stories – painfully eye-opening as they were – my favorite stories were the ones that took place in Africa. In “Return to the Land of the Giant Suns,” a woman who’s been living in North Dakota returns to Harare, Zimbabwe. She experiences reverse culture shock, both with how her family behaves and with the country’s culture overall. In “Globe-Trotter,” a Zimbabwean woman, who’s become successful in America, is visiting her cousin in Mozambique. She, too, experiences a kind of reverse culture shock, feeling offended at the way some men treat her. She later travels to Ecuador and has a new revelation. “Dear Aunt Vimbai” is perhaps the most rooted in Zimbabwe, following a girl as she comes of age. Her only connection to America is her Aunt Vimbai, with whom she exchanges frequent letters.
The stories set in Africa were generally lighter in tone – at least somewhat! Only a few of the stories set in the United States ended on a hopeful note. In general, I enjoyed the happier and more optimistic stories the most. Even so, the heavier stories make me really feel for immigrants and people of color, and I wish they could have happier, easier lives. My hope is that this collection with be thought-provoking for American (especially white American) readers and inspire more kindness in how they treat others.
Send Her Back and Other Stories is a heartfelt, candid, and unflinching mosaic of the immigrant experience in America, especially for women who emigrated from Zimbabwe. It offers cultural insights, examinations of career and money, and depictions of family and romance, all from a range of angles and perspectives. While it is often somber and difficult, it’s also beautifully written and inspires empathy and understanding.
Get the Book
You can buy Send Her Back and Other Stories here – it is available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
|Send Her Back and Other Stories by Munashe Kaseke|
|Genre||Short Stories; Contemporary Fiction|
|Setting||United States; Zimbabwe; Mozambique; Ecuador|
|Number of Pages||204|
|Format I Read||ebook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||July 26, 2022|
In Send Her Back and Other Stories, Munashe Kaseke offers an awfully intimate, fresh telling of the immigrant black woman experience in the United States, equally awash with a myriad of challenges as well as the joys of exploring a new world. With sumptuous candor, her complicated, and often tangled, female Zimbabwean protagonists navigate issues of identity, microaggressions, and sexism in vibrant and indelible settings, and at times a tense US political climate. Yet again, these are not only stories of overcoming, they’re also marked by characters who’ve risen to the top of their professional fields, seized the American dream, and who travel the world in glee. Kaseke peels back on the inner wranglings of characters caught between two worlds be it by stories of dating outside one’s culture and race or failing to assimilate upon returning home after spending time abroad. Uncanny. Hilarious. Witty. Gripping. Send Her Back and Other Stories dazzles, leaving you newly awakened to the world we live in.
About the Author
Munashe Kaseke was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. She migrated to the United States of America at age nineteen when she received a scholarship to study at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She holds Doctor of Pharmacy and Master of Public Administration degrees. Munashe currently lives and works in Northern California. Send Her Back and other stories is her debut book.
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