Start With Me
By Lilian Masitera
Published by Now I can Play publications (2011)
FROM time immemorial, writers have used different types of literature to mirror society and, most importantly, to allow people to understand the world.
Through literature, some writers continue to challenge, ridicule and question certain norms practiced in different societies.
Literature is indeed a form of communication that shapes opinions, builds perspectives and identities.
In the book under review this week, Zimbabwean writer Lilian Masitera invites readers to reflect on decisions they make in life.
Simply titled Start with Me, the narrative is not only intriguing but an eye opener for all age groups in any given society — a book for parents, children, students and teachers.
The book looks at complex and confusing themes of love, marriage and motherhood.
The writer does well in exploring these and other various themes, enabling readers to reflect on important issues impacting society.
In her narrative, Masitera focuses on the character Edna.
Coerced into marriage at age 16, Edna contends that marriage is perceived to bring a woman happiness, respect and honour in the society.
But is that so?
Masitera presents questions that the reader is forced to analyse.
For example, questions presented include: What happiness does marriage bring when Edna is slaving to ensure that she feeds her children?
What respect and honour does Edna earn when her husband is nicknamed FTT (Full Time Thug) by his friends with whom he smokes dagga?
Edna endures the responsibility of being a mother of three, fending for her children while coping with poverty and an irresponsible husband; this is the reality of marriage for her.
“She was slaving as though her children did not have a father. How did some women find rich husbands? Why was she so unlucky? Or was she..?” writes Masitera.
It is through Edna that one gets to understand that marriage does not define a woman, should not be rushed into and is not the only way to happiness.
“First there is this monster called marriage. I had thought it would give me status and solidarity with other married women. Perhaps it does for some women, but as soon as I entered into it, I had to have children and childbirth made a coward of me,” reflects Edna in the book.
Masitera does well in advocating social reform to remove practices that have caused mental illness and depression in the name of upholding ‘social status’.
The book advocates change and introspection by an individual before making huge decisions in life.
Masitera highlights how things, such as marriage, are not the most appropriate yardstick to measure morality and happiness in the society.
Those unmarried are regarded as misfits within the society and given names that not only portray them as prostitutes but bad influences to fellow married sisters and friends.
“You would soon find that kind of life unbearable because you would be the talk of the neighbourhood. Everyone would call you a prostitute, or husband snatcher or old maid. You would be very lonely. Decent women marry, Jessy,” writes Masitera.
“A good woman marries early, before she loses her virginity. That way she gains the respect of her husband and in-laws. What greater honour can a daughter bring to her parents than to be respectably married? Wise girls start family early.”
Another important message by Masitera is that, it is an individual’s responsibility to shape his or her life.
The writer appeals to adults to do better with their lives as children learn from watching the actions of their elders:
“I tell you, children are magnifying glasses,…Nothing that adults do escapes their little hawk’s eyes . Later, they over -dramatise our follies.”
Start with Me is an inspiring piece of literature that is not only entertaining but educative and motivates one to make better decisions for self-advancement.
It is a must-read