Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives is the latest installment in the McSweeney’s Voice of Witness Series, edited by Dave Eggers and Lola Vollen. The series illuminates human rights crises across the world using an unconventional, but powerful tool—oral testimonies from ordinary civilians.
For this book, Peter Orner and his co-author, the Zimbabwean writer and filmmaker Annie Holmes, traveled a long way to gather histories. They spoke with Zimbabweans all across that country’s expanse, in urban centers and remote farmlands; they met with exiles throughout the Zimbabwean Diaspora, from Johannesburg, to Vancouver, to Washington, DC.
There are twenty-five narrators in this book, an eclectic group of men and women, who tell unforgettable stories of cowardice and cruelty, courage and kindness—all set against the backdrop of Zimbabwe’s tumultuous recent history. Individually, each story demonstrates the power of the human voice to heal and harrow; collectively, these histories provide an unprecedented written history of Zimbabwe’s ongoing struggle towards legitimately democratic self-government. In a recent review, Harper’s said “Hope Deferred might be the most important publication to have come out of Zimbabwe in the past thirty years.”
Peter Orner is currently a visiting faculty member at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and he’s a graduate of the program. He also teaches at San Francisco State University. He’s author of two award-winning books: one novel, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, and one collection, Esther Stories. His short story “The Raft” was featured in Best American Short Stories 2001. Orner is also editor of Underground America, and earlier installment in the Voice of Witness series which features told histories from undocumented workers living in the U.S.
Interview will air at noon on KRUI, or listen online. Orner will discuss the book at Prairie Lights Bookstore on Wednesday, March 30, at 7 PM.