Send Her Back and Other Stories
by Munashe Kaseke
Mukana Press

"Had I become the proverbial African who goes away for a few years and comes back acting like they're too good for the place, positioning herself as superior before jetting away again?"

This collection of short stories breaks the heart and makes the mind consider the world's cruel ways. The title of the book reminds readers of a 2019 presidential rally in the U.S. when a crowd chanted "send her back," which proved a dark moment in U.S. history for immigrants. These stories reveal the extent of hurt that dark moment caused.

The tales are full of dramatic tension, and the sentences flow seamlessly, conveying an African immigrant experience. The first story grapples with conflicts that arise when a woman from Zimbabwe dates a man from Wyoming. Another story tackles issues concerning police brutality toward undocumented immigrants. A third one confronts emotions involved in returning to a native country, Zimbabwe, after living and working in an adopted country, the United States.

The characters in these stories confront struggles with their best coping mechanisms, even if those same techniques exacerbate problems. For instance, characters struggling in the U.S. lie to their family members back in their native country, pretending all is well in the States when the reality is bleak: a mother loses her child; a wife is mistreated by in-laws; a woman screws up a healthy relationship. Most of the conflicts are caused by anger.

The majority of the stories have unsettling endings, which leads to readers empathizing with either the characters or the situations. However, some of the conclusions are hopeful. For instance, readers see Vimbiso Nyamukundwa unfairly arrested and threatened with deportation in the title story. At the end of the story, the twist reminds one that everyone in America, whether a natural-born citizen or a hard-working immigrant, is still working to survive. One is caused to wonder why immigrants are mistreated when they work so hard at essential tasks of humanity, such as caring for the old and frail.

"The Collector of Degrees" is written in the second person, making the struggles of a college student from an immigrant family immediate and shareable with the reader. This story reveals the complications of the DACA program, giving the reader a nuanced understanding of what it means to be a child of immigrants. In the story "Unhinged," Tatenda only feels seen when she can rouse anger, whether in her father, her African American classmates, or her kind boyfriend. As the story progresses, readers start to understand where she is coming from. Tatenda binges on Fox news and claims to be a Trump supporter just to stand out. She wants to get the African American students to argue with her because that is when she feels the most alive. In another story, a single mother, Fungai, wants her daughter's white foster family to understand what cruelty has done to her. She wants them to ask what everyone can do to overcome cruelty and be more inclusive.

It is clear that this collection's objective is to dispel stereotypes and foster understanding. Its glimpses into interracial and cross-cultural dynamics compel readers to understand. It's as if the author is saying we should comfort each other, hold hands, share meals, be honest, and talk through hopes, fears, dreams, and anxieties together. These stories display reality at its toughest and give the heart room to grow. The characters live with tremendous courage. The author's collection of poignant tales challenges readers to think deeply about what all people, no matter their ethnicity or family background, have in common.

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