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Reviewed by Bil Howard for Readers' Favorite
Defining Pearl is indeed a pearl of great price. The memoir of Pearl Matibe is written by an extraordinary woman who was a part of the political opposition to a dictator in Zimbabwe and lived to tell about it. In an attempt to define who she is, Pearl chronicles her childhood and education, both of which were very segregated from the world outside the closed curtains of her home. She was taught strict etiquette and proper English from early on and was often mistaken for a white woman over the phone. Her dream was realized as she and her husband settled into raising a family on a farm, something that typically was done by the white landowners. But everything went wrong when her husband became a part of the opposition against the dictatorial rule of Robert Mugabe. The seizure of their farm, numerous arrests, and threats on her life and the lives of her family finally drove her from Zimbabwe. She eventually found herself in the U.S. where she was forced to learn a new culture and begin to define herself in a different way.
Pearl Matibe has an excellent story to tell in Defining Pearl. She doesn’t tell it out of a sense of vanity, but rather to communicate the pride that she has in her family and heritage. She takes an honest look at the double-standards that exist in our world based upon race and culture. Her observations are an accusation toward all of us because we do not truly see who a person is, but rather make an assumption based upon outward appearances, accents, or heritage. I felt a slight bite, also, as she described an America that is very different from the one that I grew up in. Yet, I also understood her disenchantment because I have experienced the very same things from my own country as the culture has continually morphed itself into something unrecognizable. Ultimately, however, I found Defining Pearl to be honest, tragic, and inspiring; a lesson in our failure to really getting to know people.