Send Her Back and other stories
The experience of migration, adaptation, and survival in a new country is life-changing, often wrought with turbulence. Send Her Back and Other Stories is a collection of short stories that tell clear-eyed truths about life in the diaspora for women from Zimbabwe. Munashe Kaseke tells diverse stories with women protagonists – sometimes hopeful, often heart-breaking – of losing and finding oneself and of transforming racial and ethnic identities. Each story offers a lens into struggles in parenting, friendships, romantic involvements, and other relationships complicated by diasporic experiences.
Reading the anthology from my point of view as an immigrant woman, many stories are all-too-familiar. Stories such as “The Collector of Degrees” and “Send Her Back” tell of a broken immigration system that keeps immigrants in a constant state of insecurity and hypervigilance because of their precarious status. These stories deal with how undocumented people are often forced to engage in questionable but necessary activities to stay in the country, such as engaging in sham marriages and stacking degrees.
Kaseke’s stories are based in many parts of the United States, from Baltimore to North Dakota, from Silicon Valley to Minnesota. Whether in Mozambique or in Indiana, each story offers a lens into being a woman in Zimbabwe and the transformational effect of moving to a different place. The stories “Unseen” and “Imported Husband” discuss the complexities of navigating gender roles and establishing one’s identity. Dating is often a thorny path for Black, immigrant women, as depicted in “Territorial” and “When Zimbabwe Fell for Wyoming.” When not dealing with microaggressions or everyday subtle insults and invalidations, a Zimbabwean woman who dates white American men must contend with the contradictory harms of invisibility and hypervisibility, of being shunned and being exotified.
Immigrants often carry the burden of caring for parents, siblings, and other family members back home, while also trying their best to survive in America. The stories “Globe-Trotter” and “The Zimbabwean Dream” explore the disconnects between expectations and the reality of life as immigrants from Zimbabwe to the United States. Visions of success and transcending economic limitations are common, and often incompatible with gargantuan effort and sacrifices required to thrive in the U.S., where success is often measured by accumulating wealth, material possessions and other status symbols.
The author sheds light on often-untold stories of the immigrant experience, stories that focus on desperation, loneliness, isolation and longing for home. Kaseke shares the guilt and shame of balancing assimilationist tendencies, while also staying true to Zimbabwean heritage and culture. Newcomers work hard to create a life in America, while also providing for family back home. Pursuing the American dream can be costly, and the price a woman must pay for belonging and affirmation almost always involves a broken heart and endless tears.
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