Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SINGING AWAY THE HUNGER by Mpho 'M'atsepo Nthunya

SINGING AWAY THE HUNGER

The Autobiography of an African Woman

By Mpho 'M'atsepo Nthunya

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-253-33352-0
Publisher: Indiana Univ.

 An African woman's poignant and beautifully crafted memoir lyrically portrays the brutal poverty and reliance on ritual that shape the lives of her people, the Basotho. Though set in Lesotho and South Africa, hers is not a story of apartheid and racism per se, although both are a subtext of Nthunya's stories. Rather, it is a rare glimpse into the almost exclusively black African world and culture of the Basotho. It is the story of Nthunya's almost unimaginably hard life: a childhood without clothing, shoes, or food (she literally ate grass); the mother she vividly brings to life, a devout Roman Catholic who inspires her daughter's resilience and belief in God and transcendence; the death of her husband and murders of her children, brother, and father; work as a domestic to support her children. Among the most fascinating aspects of her narrative are the unbending rules of custom and ritual that determine everything from marriage to everyday activities. Yet this is not a dark book. It is filled with Nthunya's love of natural beauty, as well as her sense of humor, hope, and dreams. Nthunya's story might have been suffused with resentment and rage, but it is not. She does not dictate our emotions, but extracts them through the power of her voice. The single exception is Nthunya's warning about poverty and the jealousy it incites. In her stories she reveals how jealousy corrupts and destroys. She concludes with a warning and a dream for her people: ``Maybe if there is one day enough for the hunger to stop, we can stop being so jealous of one another. If the jealousy is no more, we can begin to have dreams for each other.'' A commanding and important work that will captivate readers with its unique voice, narrative power, and unforgettable scenes of life in southern Africa. (17 b&w photos, not seen)