Chinongwa – Lucy Mushita

– Debut novel –

(French version)

Summary: Due to forced displacement during colonialism, people in Chinongwa’s village are poor. One desperate solution is to marry off little girls in exchange for food. Her father and paternal aunt are ashamed when their first attempts to trade Chinongwa fail because she is painfully thin. Eventually, the barren Amai Chitsva takes her off their hands and offers the girl as a second wife to her husband who is old enough to be Chinongwa’s father. With the odds thus staked against such a little girl, Chinongwa must grow up at lightning speed. Relying on her survival instincts, she does her best to be a good co-wife and mother. While Chinongwa does what is demanded of her, she dreams of independence. But what price freedom? Will she ever be free?

Mushita’s powerful novel is set in the early twentieth century Zimbabwe but driven by patriarchy, religion and poverty, child marriage is sadly still common in Zimbabwe and many parts of the world. This book shows how nobody comes out unscathed in this system.


Publication: Modjaji Books, Weaver Press, 2022; Spinifex 2023
Language: English
Rights: World (except World English + World French)
Genre: Debut novel
Extent: 244 p.
Translation: French
Material: French translation by Elise Argaud

Bio: A novelist and essayist, Lucy Mushita was born in Southern Rhodesia, and grew up in a small village during apartheid. Her novel Chinongwa was first published in South Africa in 2008, and in French by Actes Sud in France in 2012 (translation by Elise Argaud). The book explores the post colonial effect on ordinary life. She left Zimbabwe in 1986, for France, the United States and Australia – eventually making Paris her home. In 2022, Chinongwa was reissued in a revised English edition by Weaver Press in Zimbabwe and Modjaji Books in South Africa. Lucy Mushita currently lives between Paris and Sydney, and is working on her second novel.

Rights inquiries: Here


@ Lucy Mushita

No one had ever sat Chinongwa down to tell her that she was going to be given away, but she was neither deaf nor blind. The trees knew it and whispered, gossiped and laughed about it all day, all night. The grass knew it, and during the dry season kept the secret in its roots so as to pass it on to the delicate shoots that sprouted after the first rains. When she looked at the cows staring at her while they ruminated, she saw the pity in their eyes because they knew that she was nothing but a girl who was going to be given away. She shied away from them and pretended she did not see their huge, wide eyes and the tears they shed for her. When she went to watch out for the baboons and monkeys, the baboons ignored her as if out of shame, and the monkeys mocked her.

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