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‘‘Home is Where One Is’’ – A Review of Andrew Chatora’s Where the Heart Is

The identity and location of “home” are fiendishly complex matters. Andrew Chatora’s new novel: “Where the Heart Is” tackles an important issue, the experiences of those in the diaspora and the unmitigated longing for the familiar comforts of “home.”

Andrew Chatora’s new novel, Where the Heart Is, tackles a very important issue, namely the experiences of those in the diaspora. Invariably, there is an unmitigated longing for the familiar comforts of ‘home’. However, the identity and location of ‘home’ are fiendishly complex matters. For some, ‘home’ denotes their current physical location. For others, ‘home’ equates to the country of their birth and initial upbringing. These polarities find excellent expression in Chatora’s second book, and they chip away at the fabric of the protagonists’ judgment and relationships. In the end, ‘home’ is where one is. Fari Mupawaenda the narrative’s central character toys with a homecoming of sorts but stark economic and health exigencies compel him to leave ‘home.’ However, the matter does not rest there. Fari’s eventual homecoming takes a morbid and final turn – an event which was marked with little if any ceremony. Where the Heart is raises compelling questions relating to identity and place. These cardinal questions are not capable of a settled answer, but they received prominent attention in the book.

Where the Heart is raises themes of a different but important order of which human trafficking is quite prominent. Here, the distinction between villains and victims becomes quite nebulous. Deceit and physical need reign supreme until everything is unravelled. Because of the relevant characters’ ingrained sexual incontinence and lack of self-awareness, matters take an almost farcical twist.

A sublime read. Chatora offers a vibrant new voice in African Literature.

The diaspora challenges accepted local wisdom on the formation and prosecution of personal relationships. Convenience replaces the value of probity with the usual consequences. Chief among these is Fari’s ability to lurch from one poor choice to the next. These shifting sands plague filial relationships too. In a foreign world what is sexually appropriate for one’s children is mired in controversy. Fari’s relationship with his children is shaped by matters relating to sex and sexuality – a recipe for disaster.

Fari’s relationship with his children is shaped by matters relating to sex and sexuality – a recipe for disaster.

Another subtle but important theme in the book concerns the inability of some men to adapt to the new social realities. Fari and Maidei inhabit a universe in which mutual respect and affection is negotiated on crude patriarchal norms. Initially, Fari sees himself as the head of the house who should control his family and whose word is final. However, for women, the diaspora brings freedom, and this is brought out palpably through the portrait of the mercurial Madei, Fari’s estranged wife. A woman ceases to be one of her husband’s chattels. She has agency and can make choices relating to her future. At a lesser, level the fluidity of ‘being’ in the diaspora gives rise to frayed personal relationships in which monogamy is dispensable and various short-term liaisons reign supreme. Even basic and prudent financial decisions including financing the purchase of a house become intense but unnecessary battlegrounds. These disturbed bonds and conflicts percolate into filial relationships and generate mistrust and misgivings.

Chatora’s latest offering is to be congratulated for handling numerous big themes deftly and without judgment. The characters become strange partners in a journey of self-destruction and misplaced priorities. There is a raw honesty in the book and the sensitivity to detail is excellent. Where the Heart Is, is highly recommended. It will appeal to numerous audiences including observers of some of the less than salutary effects of migration on established social norms. It also provides an immediate perspective on how to identify the physical location.

Originally published in This Is Africa. All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author

Andrew Chatora

Andrew Chatora

Andrew Chatora is a Zimbabwean novelist, essayist and short-story writer based in Bicester, England. He grew up in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and moved to England in 2002. His debut novella, Diaspora Dreams (2021), was approvingly received and nominated for the National Arts Merit Awards (2022). His second book, Where the Heart Is, was published in the same year to considerable acclaim. Chatora’s forthcoming book, Born Here, But Not in My Name, is a brave, humorous and psychologically penetrating portrait of post-Brexit Britain. Chatora is noted for his acerbic and honest depiction of the migrant experience. Heavily influenced by his own experience as a black English teacher in the United Kingdom, Chatora probes multi-cultural relationships, identity politics, blackness, migration, citizenship and nationhood.

''Inside Harare Alcatraz and Other Short Stories affords Andrew Chatora to tell his story with more urgency than before. Chatora roars into centre stage with this charmed confluence of the novella, the essay, the treatise, the short story and the vignette. Here is a collection to startle you out of your complacency.'' – Memory Chirere, University of Zimbabwe

In his fourth literary offering, Andrew Chatora gives us eleven stories written in a wide range of settings and painting the lives of Zimbabweans from different walks of life. From the impenetrable Harare prison to the working class Mutare and its domain of shebeen queens to suburban Harare and a politically charged United Kingdom in a post Brexit world, Chatora takes the reader on a grand tour of outrage. Notwithstanding the shifts in scene and setting, these stories have one pervasive theme in common - they capture the suffocation and desperation of Zimbabwe and her Diaspora and fully describe the precariousness of living in environments that are increasingly hostile.

Inside Harare Alcatraz and Other Short Stories transcends the grass is never greener perspective with a nuanced interrogation of the socio-political realities of its characters. Chatora fashions a diverse cast of characters whose complexities and eccentricities evoke the utmost in us.
"Where The Heart Is offers a nuanced view of one family’s struggle to negotiate cold Britannia as they face dicey neighbourhoods, sketchy liaisons, and perennial ill-fate. Chatora’s diaspora is not the glorified El Dorado; it is an honest place of grit and survival. A stellar contribution."

– Tariro Ndoro, Author Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner

For migrant Fari Mupawaenda, life cannot be complete without quitting the back breaking struggle for survival in the UK and returning to the laid-back streets of a warm Harare… but does it make sense for him to want to return to the periphery once more? The man who returns, why does he return? To what does he return?

His wife, a zealous cosmopolitan, the daughter, a conflicted bed-hopping undergraduate, and the son, a budding homosexual, will not follow Fari in his trip to what they see as the back of beyond. They have decided to invest fully where they are.
Fari’s reverse trip is a story about the human body, a tight memory test and a duel between geography and anticipation…

Masterful in style and form, the narratives in Andrew Chatora’s Where the Heart Is are intensely provocative.

-Memory Chirere- University of Zimbabwe
“Chatora gives us an honest account of the migrant’s experiences in a world that seeks to silence him. Diaspora Dreams is simultaneously suffocating and isolating. Battle after battle, the reader is constantly thrown into the unforgiving world of a black man in a white man’s world.” – Tariro Ndoro, Author, Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner

Diaspora Dreams is Andrew Chatora’s debut novella. It details the life and struggles of Kundai Mafirakureva, a Zimbabwean immigrant living in the United Kingdom. When Kundai departs a failing Zimbabwe for the greener pastures of England, he is convinced that his luck will immediately change. Yet what he finds in the UK convinces him that all that glitters is not always gold.

Chatora takes us on a journey that acquaints us with Thames Valley, where Kundai must negotiate his place and his voice in a world where African men are not welcome, a world where racial prejudice is still rampant. Set against the backdrop of petty classroom squabbles that constantly remind Kundai of his lower status as an immigrant and as a black man, Diaspora Dreams exposes the tensions of working in the diaspora and the complicated dynamics between community and authority experienced by black men.

The pressures of Britain also bear down on Kundai’s family and relationships, threatening, in the words of du Bois, to “tear his soul asunder.” This is a novel with comedic elements gleaming with personal values and beliefs, sometimes an aching story to read, but never without excitement and hope as you watch this black man’s life unfold.
“Harare Voices and Beyond takes us on a journey through the dark recesses of the human psyche.”

─Sue Quainton, Bicester, United Kingdom

A drunken confession exposes a dark family secret. Rhys appears to have it all. A white Zimbabwean living in affluent Borrowdale Brooke area he gets involved in a freak traffic accident. Therein unfolds a confession which unleashes a cathartic chain of events in the family’s hitherto well-choreographed life, a family whose lived experience becomes microcosmic and an eye opener to Zimbabwe’s seemingly closed, forgotten, white minority community.

Through offering a rare insight into lives of the white community in post-independence Zimbabwe, Harare Voices and Beyond explores the dynamics of love, money, family feuds, identity politics, false philanthropy, and respectability inter-alia. Two families’ lives are inexorably linked in this fast-paced narrative which not only traverses multiple locations, but also juxtaposes the seedy underbelly of Harare with the leafy northern suburbs, and little-known Marina Thompson from UK Durham University all appear linked in a drama-infused finale that will shock and numb the reader.

Today in Literature

Andrew Chatora’s Debut Novella “Diaspora Dreams” Stares Back at the White Gaze


The Breaking of Our Tribe: A Review of Where the Heart Is by Andrew Chatora


Charles Lovemore Mungoshi – Eulogy to Greatness


Navigating New Identities – A Review of Andrew Chatora’s “Diaspora Dreams”


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