Nervous Conditions

by

Tsitsi Dangarembga

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Nyasha Character Analysis

Nyasha is Tambu's cousin, who is about her same age. When the two are little, they are great friends, but their relationship is interrupted when Nyasha goes with Babamukuru and Maiguru to England. She returns five years later, at age eleven, as an entirely different person: anglicized and, in Tambu's eyes, useless and uncouth. Worst of all, Nyasha doesn't remember Shona well. Tambu doesn't begin to rethink this assessment until she goes to the mission school. While she continues to believe that Nyasha is tactless, headstrong, and a poor excuse for a good, traditional woman, she also discovers that Nyasha is worldly and able to think about things in more nuanced ways. Nyasha constantly questions what's right and wrong, which leads her to stand up to Babamukuru regularly. He takes issue with her inability to act like a good, respectful daughter, and at one point beats Nyasha for her perceived promiscuity. Tambu is caught between idolizing Nyasha and demonizing her, as she recognizes that Nyasha's ability to think abstractly is compelling but potentially dangerous—it leads Nyasha to question the status quo, something that, if Tambu were to follow suit, would jeopardize her educational opportunities. As tensions rise in Babamukuru's house, Nyasha turns to constant studying and dieting to cope. Both happen sporadically at first and only when Nyasha is preparing for exams, but especially after Tambu leaves the mission to attend Sacred Heart, Nyasha's health takes a turn for the worse. She develops a dangerous eating disorder, and, after about eight months, she's skeletally thin and faints. After a fainting episode, Nyasha experiences a mental break in which she accuses "them" (presumably, white settlers) of turning her into a stranger and denying her whiteness while also alienating her from her parents. Mainini agrees with this assessment; she believes that "Englishness" brought Nyasha's illness on and will kill her. Nyasha ends the novel checked into a clinic for several weeks, and Tambu gives no indication if Nyasha ever recovers.

Nyasha Quotes in Nervous Conditions

The Nervous Conditions quotes below are all either spoken by Nyasha or refer to Nyasha. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Lynne Rienner Publishers edition of Nervous Conditions published in 2004.
Chapter Three Quotes

Whereas before I had believed with childish confidence that burdens were only burdens in so far as you chose to bear them, now I began to see that the disappointing events surrounding Babamukuru's return were serious consequences of the same general laws that had almost brought my education to an abrupt, predictable end.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Nyasha, Nhamo, Chido
Related Symbols: England
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Four Quotes

Today I am content that this little paragraph of history as written by Nyasha makes a good story, as likely if not more so than the chapters those very same missionaries were dishing out to us in those mission schools.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Nyasha
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Five Quotes

"Maybe that would have been best. For them at least, because now they're stuck with hybrids for children. And they don't like it. They don't like it at all. It offends them. They think we do it on purpose, so it offends them."

Related Characters: Nyasha (speaker), Tambu, Babamukuru, Maiguru, Chido
Related Symbols: England
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

"I thought you went to look after Babamukuru," I said. "That's all people ever say."

Maiguru snorted. "And what do you expect? Why should a woman go all that way and put up with all those problems if not to look after her husband?"

Related Characters: Nyasha (speaker), Maiguru (speaker), Babamukuru
Related Symbols: England
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

I felt sorry for Maiguru because she could not use the money she earned for her own purposes and had been prevented by marriage from doing the things she wanted to do. But it was not so simple, because she had been married by my Babamukuru, which defined her situation as good.

Related Characters: Nyasha (speaker), Babamukuru, Maiguru
Page Number: 103-104
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Six Quotes

The victimization, I saw, was universal. It didn't depend on poverty, on lack of education or on tradition […] Men took it everywhere with them. Even heroes like Babamukuru did it.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Nyasha, Nhamo
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Eight Quotes

I simply was not ready to accept that Babamukuru was a historical artifact; or that advantage and disadvantage were predetermined, so that Lucia could not really hope to achieve much as a result of Babamukru's generosity; and that the benefit would only really be a long-term one if people like Babamukuru kept on fulfilling their social obligation; and people like Lucia would pull themselves together.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Nyasha, Lucia
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

My vagueness and my reverence for my uncle, what he was, what he had achieved, what he represented and therefore what he wanted, had stunted the growth of my faculty of criticism, sapped the energy that in childhood I had used to define my own position. It had happened insidiously, the many favorable comparisons with Nyasha doing a lot of the damage.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Babamukuru, Nyasha
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Nine Quotes

How could I possibly forget my brother and the mealies, my mother and the latrine and the wedding? These were all evidence of the burdens my mother had succumbed to. Going to the convent was a chance to lighten those burdens by entering a world where the burdens were light.

Related Characters: Tambu (speaker), Nyasha, Mainini, Nhamo
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter Ten Quotes

"Look what they've done to us," she said softly. "I'm not one of them but I'm not one of you."

Related Characters: Nyasha (speaker), Tambu, Babamukuru, Maiguru
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
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Nervous Conditions PDF

Nyasha Character Timeline in Nervous Conditions

The timeline below shows where the character Nyasha appears in Nervous Conditions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
Colonialism Theme Icon
...watches her female relatives also be brutalized by these injustices. Tambu also watches her cousin Nyasha reject her father's controlling nature, which leaves her struggling with dangerous eating disorders. Mainini suggests... (full context)
Chapter One
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...her and Lucia's escape, Mainini and Maiguru's entrapment, and the many rebellions of her cousin, Nyasha. (full context)
Chapter Two
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...a scholarship to study as well. Eventually, they decided to go and take Chido and Nyasha with them for five years. Jeremiah worried about having to provide for himself, while Mainini... (full context)
Chapter Three
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...outside. Maiguru is the last one inside and looks no different than when she left. Nyasha, however, looks very English: she's wearing a tiny dress that barely covers her thighs and... (full context)
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...she wasn't allowed to go to the airport and resume her relationship with Chido and Nyasha. She feels as though this is what Mainini was talking about when she mentioned the... (full context)
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...other women are pleased when they discover Tambu cooking. Tambu feels superior because she believes Nyasha wouldn't be able to cook such a feast. She realizes that she felt excluded by... (full context)
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...this, as she has to know what everyone's status is. Tambu makes many mistakes and Nyasha tries to smile in solidarity. Tambu finds it insulting and ignores her. She's even more... (full context)
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...to as a child, as she attracts negative attention now as a teen, she invites Nyasha to dance. When Nyasha looks confused, Maiguru explains that Nyasha and Chido no longer understand... (full context)
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...to forget the Shona language. She remembers all the fun she used to have with Nyasha and Chido and feels they've turned into strangers. Suddenly sad, Tambu implores Maiguru to ask... (full context)
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Nhamo's absence also means that when Babamukuru comes to visit on the weekends with Nyasha, Tambu is able to try to be friends with Nyasha. Tambu is unsuccessful, as Nyasha... (full context)
Chapter Four
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...about what life will be like at the mission. She wonders if she'll sleep with Nyasha or with Anna, Maiguru's house girl. Tambu is uncomfortable with the possibility of sleeping with... (full context)
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...that Tambu doesn't recognize it as a house. It's white, which Tambu later learns from Nyasha is because early settlers believed that the paint kept houses cooler. In the surrounding town,... (full context)
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...house, explaining that the dogs are tied. She shows Tambu into the back door, and Nyasha immediately jumps on Tambu with hugs and kisses. Tambu is surprised at this enthusiasm and... (full context)
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...by taking a gulp of tea, but is surprised that the tea is so hot. Nyasha bursts into the living room and offers a simple "hello" when Maiguru tells her to... (full context)
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Maiguru gives a little laugh and says that Chido and Nyasha are too anglicized and are struggling to learn how to act at home. She explains... (full context)
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They argue for a moment, and then Nyasha pointedly ignores Maiguru. Maiguru motions to the other bed and tells Tambu that she'll sleep... (full context)
Chapter Five
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For a while after Maiguru leaves, Nyasha pointedly reads and ignores Tambu. Eventually the girls begin looking sideways at each other and... (full context)
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Morosely, Nyasha says that she and Chido shouldn't have gone to England, as Babamukuru and Maiguru are... (full context)
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Tambu doesn't have a chance to explain this to Nyasha, as Anna appears and kneels in the door. Nyasha snaps at her to stand up,... (full context)
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Tambu enters the dining room. The table is covered with serving dishes, and Nyasha sits at one end, reading. Nyasha puts her book away when Maiguru comes in. Seated,... (full context)
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Maiguru shows Babamukuru Nyasha's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover. Babamukuru insists that his daughter won't read such an inappropriate... (full context)
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Nyasha realizes that her book is gone and wonders if she forgot it somewhere. She pushes... (full context)
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Nyasha invites Tambu to come outside so she can smoke a cigarette. Tambu is aghast and... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...Tambu returns to the bedroom, she vows to be like Babamukuru: hardworking, straight, and true. Nyasha is already in bed and asks Tambu to turn off the light, saying she can't... (full context)
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After Nyasha gets back into bed, she notes that Tambu didn't put her bedclothes on and says... (full context)
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...to enjoy feeling clean. Tambu finishes her bath when Maiguru knocks and then generously runs Nyasha's bath for her. Tambu makes note of what Nyasha is wearing and finds what must... (full context)
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...breakfast. She's impatient to be at school where she knows she can succeed. She watches Nyasha eat bacon and eggs and refuse porridge on the grounds that it might make her... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...reader, Tambu says that this is the beginning of her period of reincarnation. She devours Nyasha's library of nineteenth-century novels. Nyasha is dismissive, as she's interested in history and current events.... (full context)
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Fortunately, Tambu escapes Nyasha's fate. Though she quickly becomes fluent in English, she doesn't have a British accent. Boys... (full context)
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...napkins. However, Tambu finds that washing them is embarrassing and is even more mortified when Nyasha offers her tampons. Nyasha teases her that it's better to lose her virginity to a... (full context)
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Tambu thinks that Nyasha is perplexing: she has everything and should be content, but she isn't. Nyasha believes that... (full context)
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Tambu discovers how highly educated Maiguru is one Sunday. After church, Tambu meets up with Nyasha to chat with friends. Nyasha pointedly ignores her parents, as she still struggles to greet... (full context)
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One morning, Tambu listens to her headmaster compliment Babamukuru on Nyasha, who he says will bring home a master's degree just like Maiguru. He also compliments... (full context)
Chapter Six
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One of Nyasha and Tambu's missionary friends, Nyaradzo, has two older brothers. They attend a special school in... (full context)
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...him to Salisbury himself. Chido, being a promising and peaceful boy, was given a scholarship. Nyasha believes that Nyaradzo's father pulled strings to make this happen. (full context)
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During Tambu's first year at the mission, Nyasha sits her first set of public exams. The exam would screen her out of the... (full context)
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...with Chido, who is handsome and kind. By the time Chido arrives home from school, Nyasha is sleeping and eating again, and they're all looking forward to attending the school Christmas... (full context)
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Chido, Tambu, and Nyasha giggle all the way to the school hall. Tambu isn't excited for the dance; it's... (full context)
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Chido and Tambu wait for Nyasha for a while before slowly walking down the drive. Chido insists that they can't go... (full context)
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Babamukuru comes in a few minutes later and wants to know why Nyasha was out so late. When she says she was talking to friends, he catches her... (full context)
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Inside the room, Babamukuru accuses Nyasha of being indecent, but she refuses to cave. She says that whatever Babamukuru is accusing... (full context)
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Nyasha backs away, begging Babamukuru to not hit her. Babamukuru hits her again and Nyasha punches... (full context)
The Limits of Education Theme Icon
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...thinks that Babamukuru's behavior is shockingly similar to Nhamo's treatment of her: both she and Nyasha are victimized only because they're female. Tambu thinks that even heroes like Babamukuru do this,... (full context)
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Tambu can't understand why Nyasha feels so threatened at the mission and suggests that she wait until she's older to... (full context)
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Chido joins the girls and calls them back inside. He puts out Nyasha's cigarette and begs her to not upset Maiguru anymore. Nyasha asks if anyone cares about... (full context)
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Nyasha spends the next week alone and withdrawn, while Babamukuru spends the week out of the... (full context)
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...to make sure they were home, and now, Maiguru says she's afraid because his and Nyasha's feelings are so intense. That night, Tambu talks at Nyasha in the dark and tells... (full context)
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Nyasha starts her period the next day, nine days early, and tells Tambu that she wishes... (full context)
Chapter Seven
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On December 23, Babamukuru, Maiguru, Nyasha, and Tambu go to the homestead for Christmas. Chido gets out of going. Nyasha pouts... (full context)
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Babamukuru insists that Nyasha has to go and everyone prepares for a fight. Surprisingly, Nyasha agrees and the family... (full context)
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...clean the toilet, but Mainini shrugs and tells Tambu to clean it. Tambu does with Nyasha's help, but they use the bushes anyway. (full context)
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...with Babamukuru and Maiguru. She wonders briefly if she'll start standing up to Babamukuru like Nyasha, but pushes the thought away. (full context)
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...she sends Tambu to fetch a chair. Nobody wants to sit on it but finally, Nyasha moves to the chair. Everyone scolds her for not properly greeting Mainini, so she gets... (full context)
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...and four of the thirteen women are under age four, so it falls to Maiguru, Nyasha, Tambu, and the three house girls to do all the work. (full context)
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...leave. Patience follows and Tambu wants to follow, but she's afraid of seeming disloyal to Nyasha. Nyasha is gone, and Tambu doesn't know when she left the kitchen, but she's glad... (full context)
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The next morning, Tambu shares everything she heard with Nyasha. Nyasha is pleased for Lucia and amused about the wedding. She asks about the ceremonies... (full context)
Chapter Eight
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To distract themselves, Tambu and Nyasha make clay pots. Nyasha takes this hobby very seriously, while Tambu welcomes it just for... (full context)
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...the three weeks until term begins. She's upset that she won't be able to see Nyasha for that time, as she now relies on Nyasha to help her with her worries.... (full context)
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After waving goodbye to Babamukuru, Maiguru, and Nyasha, Takesure invites Lucia to sleep with him that night. She refuses, reminding the men of... (full context)
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Life at the mission proceeds as usual. Nyasha and Babamukuru continue to fight constantly. Next to Nyasha, Tambu looks like the perfect woman... (full context)
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...for his generosity. Mainini joins and then Maiguru does, and Tambu wants to as well. Nyasha kicks Tambu under the table and tells her to not join in, but Tambu thanks... (full context)
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Eventually, Nyasha and Tambu take their argument to Lucia. Lucia says that Babamukuru wanted to be asked,... (full context)
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...guests and names Tambu and Lucia bridesmaids. One day in August, Babamukuru fetches Mainini, Tambu, Nyasha, and Lucia to take them to the dressmaker's shop. Lucia, Nyasha, and Tambu discuss the... (full context)
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For several weeks, Maiguru forgets to purchase the cloth and finally, Nyasha heads up the expedition. When they deliver the fabric to the dressmaker, she also changes... (full context)
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...home with her friends and doesn't come back to the mission until well after dark. Nyasha is asleep, and Tambu wakes up Maiguru by trying to knock on the window. Maiguru... (full context)
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Nyasha tries to coax Tambu out of bed, but Tambu feels herself slipping out of her... (full context)
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...pack her suitcase until she realizes that none of the items in it are hers. Nyasha tries to soothe Tambu and assures her that Babamukuru won't throw her out. When Maiguru... (full context)
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...chores with grateful delight and feels as though they're the price of her new identity. Nyasha is angry about the severity of the punishment and wants to help, but Tambu is... (full context)
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On Saturday, Nyasha decides to help with the laundry. As they scrub the white clothes, Lucia stops by... (full context)
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...she's tired of women like Lucia telling her what to do. Listening outside, Tambu and Nyasha are worried, especially when Maiguru says that she's not happy. (full context)
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That night, Tambu and Nyasha wonder whether Maiguru will leave or not. Nyasha seems to be in awe of her... (full context)
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...is wrong. On Thursday, Chido calls with news that Maiguru is at her brother's home. Nyasha is upset that Maiguru went to a man and dithers over whether to tell Babamukuru.... (full context)
Chapter Nine
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...country. Because Tambu has been unwittingly "preparing" for the test for two years, thanks to Nyasha's extensive library and interesting thought experiments, she's accepted and offered a scholarship. (full context)
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Tambu is thrilled, but Nyasha is disappointed. She insists that being educated at the Catholic school would assimilate Tambu into... (full context)
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Babamukuru agrees with Nyasha: he cites the fact that he needs to provide for Dambudzo, the only boy in... (full context)
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...night at the mission before going to Sacred Heart. Tambu is impatient to talk with Nyasha, who is still in class when she arrives. However, by early evening, Nyasha hasn't come... (full context)
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...thinks she's going to forget them as she wanders through the school to look for Nyasha. She finds her in her classroom, studying, and Nyasha barely greets Tambu. Tambu sits down... (full context)
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Babamukuru isn't in a good mood. He takes offense to Nyasha's late arrival, accuses her of spending time with boys, and won't allow her to skip... (full context)
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Tambu puts her arm around Nyasha as Nyasha talks on. She laments that Tambu is leaving, as now, she won't have... (full context)
Chapter Ten
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...coming together and she's entering a world where her burdens will be light. Maiguru and Nyasha also accompany Tambu to school, which annoys Babamukuru. Maiguru bakes a beautiful chocolate cake and... (full context)
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...goldfish. Dozens of fancy cars wind their way up to the roundabout by the dormitories. Nyasha notices that the finery is a lot for Tambu, so she delicately asks if this... (full context)
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Tambu, Babamukuru, Maiguru, and Nyasha join the throng of students and parents. Tambu is disappointed to see that the only... (full context)
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...bed while Tambu unpacks. Then, they say goodbye. Babamukuru is brisk, Maiguru is cheerful, and Nyasha seems determined to be happy. The girls promise to write and visit. (full context)
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As the term progresses, Tambu barely notices that Nyasha doesn't visit. She throws herself into her studies. The white students take a while to... (full context)
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Nyasha writes often. Her letters are long and entertaining, consisting mostly of family news and school... (full context)
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Tambu feels bad and vows to write, but she never does. Nyasha writes another bubbly and happy letter that mentions she's started a new diet that will... (full context)
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In August, Nyasha is skeletal and frail. She barely acknowledges Tambu and remains absorbed in her books. At... (full context)
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...to take Tambu to the homestead the next day, but Tambu feels she can't leave Nyasha and needs to refuse Babamukuru. She telephones his office, but he doesn't answer. Tambu makes... (full context)
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Nyasha becomes weaker every day. She studies fourteen hours per day, weaves when she walks, and... (full context)
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Late that night, Nyasha wakes Tambu up, asks to get into bed with her, and when Tambu moves over,... (full context)
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Babamukuru drives Nyasha into Salisbury the next morning on the advice of Maiguru's brother. Maiguru's brother makes Nyasha... (full context)
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At the homestead, Mainini snorts that it's the "Englishness" that's done this to Nyasha, and it's liable to kill all of them. Tambu knows that Mainini believes she's a... (full context)