Meet Munashe Kaseke, Senior Director of Business Operations and Debut Author
We’re thrilled to congratulate Munashe Kaseke, Senior Director of Business Operations, on the release of her debut short story collection, Send Her Back and Other Stories, last month.
Munashe began the project nearly three years ago as a creative outlet and continued to develop this beautiful collection of short stories during her time at Alto. We recently sat down with Munashe to learn more about her writing journey, the book’s inspiration, and how her time at Alto has impacted her creative process.
Can you tell us more about the book and what inspired you to write it?
The book is titled Send Her Back and Other Stories. It's a short story collection featuring sixteen distinct Black women, all immigrants from Zimbabwe. It's an intimate, fresh telling of the immigrant experience of Black women in the United States. The stories are varied, awash with both the joys and challenges of discovering a new world.
My characters range from those who are unsure of themselves and struggling with various aspects of the immigration system, to those who are well established, thriving, and in control of their own destiny. I was inspired to write these stories because of not only my own experiences but also those of my friends and immigrant community. The publishing world lacks diversity, and as a Black Zimbabwean immigrant, I felt these stories deserved to be told.
Who did you write the book for and what do you hope people take away from it?
I dedicated this book to immigrants, women, and people of color because I hoped they would feel seen in this collection. I also hope that those who don't identify with one or more of these categories become more empathetic from reading this book. Ultimately though, I write for myself first and foremost. I enjoy the process of world-building and character development. I believe the best writers initially write for an audience of one, and when they're satisfied with their work, then they can begin considering how to share it with the world.
What did you learn when writing the book?
I had a group of beta readers throughout the writing process and it was cool to learn — through these readers — that many of my characters’ particular struggles and joys are much more universal, reflecting the experiences of immigrants and people of color around the world.
I also learned that there are many aspects of the U.S. immigration system that I assume are common knowledge, as well as many immigrants’ struggle of belonging and search for identity. I was astonished to learn how much of this was new to my American friends.
How long did the writing process take?
I wrote the first story almost three years ago. I didn't intend for these stories to become a book — I was simply writing about whatever was on my mind at the time, with no timeline to completion. After the fifth story, I noticed an emerging theme, and that's when I first considered that these works might belong in a collection. Editing was the longest part of the process. From developmental edits to copy edits, it probably took a good year and half to get these stories publishing-ready
How did working at Alto impact your writing process?
When you love your job, it fuels creativity outside of work. It's hard to be creative or passionate about a hobby when you're burned out. I'm certain that had I not been at a company and in a role that provided great work-life balance, there is no way I would've been able to dedicate my weekends and evenings to writing and editing.
Some of my biggest supporters have been Altoids. When I released the book, I received multiple messages from Altoids telling me what their favorite stories were. Both Matt and Jamie (our founders) have been incredibly supportive as well — from the time they first learned about my creative writing passion almost a year ago, they have cheered me on and checked in on the book’s progress.
Anything else you'd like to leave us with?
I hope that more Americans engage with multicultural and Own Voice fiction. This is such a rich space full of promising emerging voices that I believe will help shift the country's conscience for good. I challenge you to intentionally seek out and add a few books by diverse authors to your reading list every year — don't leave it to chance.