Zim author tackles sexual abuse issues

LONDON - Several months ago I was working on a Limited Edition Handbag Collection which was inspired by my old time favourite book Lord of the flies.

Before I started designing, I spent about six weeks prior to putting anything on paper or leather, researching my concepts.

While doing my research I became very much intrigued by one of the characters in the book “Piggy’’.

I have always felt sorry for this character — his life was doomed from the date of conception, an “outsider’ if you like.

Further exploration into this book opened up new avenues which I had never considered many years back, when I first read the book. This also led me to the woman whom I write about today.

For a writer of colour, one of the most difficult things to do is making good use of the material one’s heritage provides and exploiting it to feed the mainstream Western taste.

African writers have been appointed (or appointed themselves really) as witnesses to the African experience and I think it’s a huge responsibility.

Against this backdrop comes a debut novel titled OUTsider by Zimbabwe-born Ruth Marimo who has been an illegal immigrant in the United States of America for the past 15 years.

This book highlights some traumatic experiences she faced as a child when her mother committed suicide when she was only five years old as well as the loss of her only sibling who was three years old the same year.

OUTsider attempts to explore the experiences and tensions faced by Ruth while living in a heterosexual abusive marriage and at the same time fighting the urge to publicly come out as a lesbian.

When one has had the worst possible things happen to them, they are forced to face their fears, and for Ruth this was all too familiar with people constantly walking out of her life.

Below are excerpts of an interview I did with Ruth:
PSN (Pam Samasuwo Nyawiri): In media interviews you always speak about your position as a feminist. Can you tell me what it means in terms of your impact in communities, running your own business, writing and trying to raise two children?

RM (Ruth Marimo): You have totally nailed exactly what my position is as a feminist.

I was raised in Zimbabwe where gender roles can be cut in a straight line.

In a way my upbringing inspires the way I stand so strongly for feminism, why I am raising my children without the conformity of gender roles and why I know for sure there is nothing that a man can do that a woman can’t.

I have already done everything society told me I couldn’t do because I was an African woman.

The impact of my ability to stand independently as an African woman is great. I know my children benefit from who I am, so does everyone else who is impacted by my life.

One of my greatest joys as a small business owner is having the ability to give other women an income and seeing those women put their children through school and gain their own independence.

This is what feminism does; it empowers women who then empower generations to come. We should all be feminists.

PSN: Tell us about something that has just happened or is about to happen in your life that you would like to share.

RM: My memoir OUTsider: Crossing Borders. Breaking Rules. Gaining Pride will be out on April 11 which is the National Day of Silence here in the United States of America and I know that of any other work I will do in my life this is the most significant.

This book will say a thousand years from now that Ruth Marimo existed and so did those who came before her.  We as Africans have to start writing our own stories, recording our own histories.

It is one of the reasons we still lag behind as people of colour. White people have been recording their histories for centuries. My book says we can do it too.

PSN: Has the position of immigrants in the West changed for the better?

RM: That is such a loaded question, I don’t think much has changed.

I know here in the United States where my own immigration status is still in limbo nothing much will change until ‘Immigration Reform’ is passed and the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows in this country are given a path to citizenship.

Another side to this is that African countries like Zimbabwe and Nigeria which have high numbers of their citizens seeking a better life elsewhere have to address all the problems that are making their citizens choose to be second class citizens elsewhere.

Countries like Mexico have to do the same.

Do you remember the Zimbabwe of the 1990s?

People only went overseas to get an education and those people would come right back to contribute to Zimbabwe’s economy.

So the tragedy really is that people have to flee their own countries in the first place.

PSN: If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

RM: If my story would be made into a film, I would insist that Zimbabweans make the majority of the cast. It disheartens me to see Mandela played by everyone other than South Africans. I really believe autobiographical stories should be as close to the real people as possible. I am a Zimbabwean. I would want my story to portray that.

PSN: How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in writing?

RM: I often tell those aspiring to be writers to do it for the love and passion and not for the money because if you do it for money you will be one very unhappy writer.

PSN: Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?

RM: Yes my next book is a children’s book series actually. The first of which will be titled What is Africa Really Like?

The concept of the book series is to paint accurate pictures of different places in the world, so children everywhere have a real concept and idea of what other places in the world are like; not just what the media portrays.

As you can see I am an author with no particular genre of writing and that is just how I like it.

*Ruth is contactable via her website at ruthmarimo.com or @marimoruth on twitter while Pamela is a Zimbabwean fashion journalist and fashion accessory designer based in the United Kingdom. She can be contacted on pamsamasuwo@live.co.uk

Comments (1)

That is the problem with homosexuals, everyone is to blame except them. Murume aiti ndine mukadzi mumba iye ane mumwe murume....hapana abuse yanga iripo apa, ndizvo zvonodyisa kuUSA kana uri an african woman!!!

Tamuka - 7 April 2014

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