Send Her Back and other stories

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Not long ago, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was greeted with cries of “Send her back,” a cruel reference to the fact that despite our high ideals, America has never been truly welcoming to immigrants. In her anthology, Munashe Kaseke references this explicitly, even naming the title story after the cry. The whole book is a look into the modern immigrant experience, illuminated by Kaseke’s own history as an immigrant from Zimbabwe.

First, I want to say that her prose is a delight to read. Kaseke has a light, deft touch that initially put me in mind of Bolu Babalola. As I read further, though, I found much more depth in this book and realized that the two authors really should not be compared, especially not when their collections have such disparate aims. The lighter moments in Kaseke’s writing are like stars in the night sky; when you really look at them, they only make the difference between them and the darkness surrounding them all the more stark.

This is a dark book to read at times. The immigrant experience, especially for Black people (I could say especially now for emphasis, but has it ever been easy?) is a difficult one. Some of the stories deal with little more than the cultural divide between America and Zimbabwe, where Kaseke’s protagonists come from, but others bring racism and the knotty mess that is our immigration system to the forefront, giving the reader no excuse to look away. Some stories reference rape and violence, and one brings up suicidal ideation.

Are the stories still beautiful, like the night sky behind the stars? Yes, but to focus on that is to miss the point entirely. The easy charm and high quality of Kaseke’s writing are reason enough to pick up this book, but the real reason to pick it up and read it all the way through is that she has a knack for telling a compelling tale. Even the story in which arguably the least happens (a young woman experiences snow and finds she does not like it at all) caught me and held my attention all the way through, both because it made me smile and I felt empathy for the protagonist, but also because it was never just about snow.

Send Her Back and other stories is Kaseke’s debut, and I hope it is not the last of her writing that I see. Work like this suggests that she deserves a celebrated career.

Reviewed By:

Author Munashe Kaseke
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 204 pages
Publisher Mukana Press
Publish Date 31-Jul-2022
ISBN 9780578353128 Buy this Book
Issue February 2022
Category Poetry & Short Stories