Drinking from Graveyard Wells
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 03/07/2023
"Even in death, who has ownership over Black women's bodies?"
Questions like this lurk between the lines of this stunning collection of stories that engage with African women's histories, both personal and generational. Their history is not just one thing: there is heartbreak and pain, and joy, and flying and magic, so much magic. An avenging spirit takes on the patriarchy from beyond the grave. An immigrant woman undergoes a naturalization ceremony in an imagined American state that demands that immigrants pay a toll of the thing they love the most. A first-generation Zimbabwean-American woman haunted by generational trauma is willing to pay the ultimate price to take her pain away—giving up her memories. A neighborhood gossip wakes up to find that houses are mysteriously vanishing in the night. A shapeshifting freedom fighter leaves a legacy of resistance to her granddaughter.
In Drinking from Graveyard Wells, Yvette Lisa Ndlovu assembles poignantly reflective stories that center the voices of African women charting their own Black history through the ages. Ndlovu's stories play with genre, from softly surreal to deeply fantastical. Each narrative is wrapped in the literary eloquence and tradition of southern African mythology, transporting readers into the lives of African women who have fought across space and time to be seen.
Drawing on her own early experiences as a Zimbabwean living under the Mugabe dictatorship, Ndlovu's stories are grounded in truth and empathy. Ndlovu boldly offers up alternative interpretations of a past and a present that speculates upon the everyday lives of a people disregarded. Her words explore the erasure of African women while highlighting their beauty and limitless magic. Immersed in worlds both fantastical and familiar, readers find themselves walking alongside these women, grieving their pain, and celebrating their joy, all against the textured backdrop of Zimbabwe.
1. Red Cloth, White Giraffe
2. Second Place is the First Loser
3. Home Became a Thing with Thorns
4. The Carnivore's Lollipop
5. Swimming with Crocodiles
6. Ugly Hamsters: A Triptych
7. Plumtree: true stories
8. The Friendship Bench
9. Water Bites Back
10. Turtle Heart
11. The Soul Would Have No Rainbow
12. Three Deaths & The Ocean of Time
13. When Death Comes to Find You
14. Drinking from Graveyard Wells
A wry, subversive and magical collection by a powerful new voice. With sharp humor and wondrous imagination, Ndlovu deftly weaves fantasy and folklore with the contemporary moment to spin these enchanting, frightening stories of injustice and revenge. Watch out reader, these dreamy tales have thorns.~Mona Awad, author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, All's Well, and Bunny
Drinking from Graveyard Wells is unlike a story collection you've read or will read. These wonderful, vibrant and beautifully executed stories of life, death, and the cultural ties forged in migration have the uncanny ability to render the world we live in more intimate and mysterious than we often imagine. A striking and original debut.~Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, and How To Read Air
In Yvette Ndlovu's stories houses disappear, ravenous ants feast on carnivore lollipops, and gods work at the bank. They're myths of political and social reality cut with bone and blood. Ndlovu is a true original, a literary force whose style is just real enough to feel magical and just magical enough to feel real. There may be no other writer quite like her at work today.~Jeff Parker, author of Ovenman, and The Taste of Penny
Yvette Ndlovu's tragicomic, sad, bold, and big-hearted Drinking from Graveyard Wells announces the arrival of a major talent. Ndlovu's realism, both magic and hyper, spins around a central truth: amid collective peril, we need storytellers like Ndlovu all the more, those who might help spirit us into some semblance of our collective tomorrow.~Edie Meidav, author of Kingdom of the Young
Ndlovu's stunning stories drawn from Zimbabwean and African legend poise poignant questions on history, identity, and nationhood. This is a collection by a supremely gifted writer committed to preserving and reinventing ancient folktales to weave a modern lore. She deserves nothing but the highest praise.~T.L. Huchu, author of The Hairdresser of Harare and The Library of the Dead
In a set of short stories that skirt the surreal, the supernatural, and the mundane, Yvette Lisa Ndlovu invites readers into a look at life in Zimbabwe, both past, present, and beyond. Drinking From Graveyard Wells is as mesmerizing and magical, as it is unflinchingly real in its reflections that pose questions at once personal and universal in their implications. These tales will stay with me, perhaps even haunt me, for some time to come!~P. Djèlí Clark, author of A Master of Djinn and Ring Shout
What a trenchant and powerful collection! These big-hearted stories offer a heady cocktail of history, myth and realism that delights and edifies, etching women's multicultural histories in a fresh and tender light. Ndlovu writes with sparkling wit and a keen eye for the everyday. Brimming with wisdom and intelligence, Drinking from Graveyard Wells heralds a wonderful new talent.~Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, author of House of Stone and I Dream America
This riveting collection marks the arrival of a formidable voice.~NoViolet Bulawayo, Booker Prize finalist and author of We Need New Names and Glory
Lyrical, spirited, and surprising, like the book's title (Drinking From Graveyard Wells), Yvette Lisa Ndlovu's stories enchant us, from their sentence sounds to their prickly impassioned characters and narratives reimagining Zimbabwean myth and wit. We encounter 'naturalization priests' who demand great sacrifice for their blessing, ancestors who exercise madly after death to transfer good fortune to future generations, a father and daughter on different sides of a different sort of 'friendship bench' (or is it so very different?)—and more. With astonishing wit, Ndlovu asks us to look hard at the intricate, intersecting burdens of lives past and present, local and global, so we can confront what is always—but not obviously—here. I have not felt so unsettled and so engaged by a group of stories in a long time.~Lisa Williams, Poet and Series Editor of the University Press of Kentucky New Poetry and Prose Series
A collection as assured, as generous, and as wide-ranging as Drinking from Graveyard Wells will always feel like the most profound and surprising gift. I loved these stories.~Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners
Ndlovu, an oral storyteller of the Shona tradition, debuts with a collection of swift and often sharp-edged stories that vary from the realist to fantastical and spotlight the experiences of African women in their home communities and abroad. In 'Red Cloth, White Giraffe,' a dead woman contemplates the significance of a red cloth on a gate as she watches her family gather for her own funeral. In the allegorical 'Turtle Heart,' residents of an island crown a new king every year, cycling through its people, until a butcher takes power and eats turtle hearts to become an immortal and everlasting leader. The title story finds a family living in a neighborhood where houses and their inhabitants disappear overnight. The family waits in fear for it to happen to them: 'I don't know what tomorrow will hold. When our house vanishes at midnight, I wonder where we will wake up.' In other stories, Ndlovu takes a wry look at the imbalance of cultural exchange between the U.S. and Zimbabwe, such as in 'Second Place Is the First Loser,' in which the narrator rues her former college friend's success at launching Lyft after taking inspiration from her country's informal ride sharing. These engrossing tales often end abruptly, but leave the reader with much to chew on. There's much to enjoy in this wide-ranging work.~Publishers Weekly