Nervous Conditions

From ArticleWorld

Nervous Conditions is a semi-autobiographical book by Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga. The book tells the story of a girl coming of age in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s.


Nervous Conditions tells the story of Tambudzai, who goes by Tambu. Nhamo, her only brother, left their small, traditional village to move to the big city. In the city, he lived with his uncle Babamukuru. Nhamo attended a mission-run school. Nhamo and Tambu’s parents thought that the education would set him up to later care for his parents. However, Nhamo falls ill and dies.

With no son to care for them, the parents hesitantly send their daughter Tambu to the city to live with Uncle Babamukuru. While Tambu is excited for education, her father deems it improper and her mother fears losing another child to the city.

In the city, Tambu butts heads with her cousin Nyasha, a girl her age who was raised mostly in England. Nyasha has no connection to Zimbabwean culture. Nyasha later battles an eating disorder that almost kills her.


Nervous Conditions deals with many real themes going on in African culture during the 1960s. Many countries were struggling with colonialism or their recent independence. Zimbabwe, for example, was an independent country ruled under white apartheid. Nervous Conditions centers around the clashing of the European and traditional African cultures.

Nervous Conditions also looks at women’s role in the changing culture. Tambu’s parents believe that her life should center around family, while she strives to get away from women’s traditional role in the home and for an education and career.