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Kagiso Lesego Molope Wins the 2014 Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for Youth Literature for This Book Betrays My Brother

This Book Betrays my BrotherAlert! The 2013 Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for Youth Literature has been awarded to Kagiso Lesego Molope for her book This Book Betrays My Brother.

According to the English Academy of South Africa press release, “The adjudication panel’s decision was unanimous.”

This Book Betrays My Brother is described as being suitable for 10 to 14-year-olds, but the award adjudicators compared it to children’s classics Little Women, Tom Sawyer and Where the Wild Things Are, in that it “troubles neat readership categories”.

Previous winners of the bi-annual Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for Youth Literature include Edyth Bulbring, who won the award last year for Melly, Fatty & Me; Darrel Bristow-Bovey, for his youth novel SuperZero; and Andy Peterson, for Daniel Fox and the Jester’s Legacy.

Congratulations, Molope!

Read an excerpt from the adjudicators’ notes:

Sensitively, Molope captures the uncertainty and naïveté of thirteen-year-old Naledi caught in a world where attractiveness to the opposite sex is an overriding adolescent concern. Naledi takes pleasure in the attention of Kitsano and the invitation to the Matric Dance. But attraction to the opposite sex becomes confusing and traumatic for her after Naledi witnesses Basi sexually abusing his girlfriend, Moipone. She is devastated by Basi’s ‘callous indifference’ to the rape’s effect on Moipone and Moipone’s social ostracism. ‘Naledi struggles to come to terms with her parents’ blind belief in him and the social mores that protect him’.

In their citation, the adjudicators stated that [i]n exploring Naledi’s painful dilemma, Molope never becomes didactic. The account is nuanced and sensitive, making it possible for readers to understand her agonising inner struggle and why she does not speak out at the time. At the heart of this novel is a challenge to recognise the disempowerment of women who are abused. Society condemns women who have been raped or who know about rape to remaining silent. If they speak out, they are thought of as vindictive liars or loose women or even traitors. The title reveals the complexity of Naledi’s decision to reveal her brother’s guilt and makes the injustice of such action imaginatively inescapable.

Press release

PRESS RELEASE
ENGLISH ACADEMY OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
PERCY FITZPATRICK PRIZE FOR YOUTH LITERATURE

Awarded to Kagiso Lesego Molope for her book This Book Betrays My Brother (Oxford University Press, 2012)

It is with great pleasure that the English Academy of Southern Africa awards the 2014 Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature to Kagiso Lesego Molope for her book, This Book Betrays My Brother, published by Oxford University Press in 2012. The adjudication panel’s decision was unanimous.

The adjudicators noted that [t]he category ‘books for children between ages 10 and 14’ is a … complex one. This Book Betrays My Brother, like some of the best children’s books that we have, troubles neat readership categories. Think of Little Women, Tom Sawyer and Where the Wild Things Are as similarly challenging such categorisation.

The book is set in a South African township in the mid-1990s. Naledi, the narrator and protagonist, explores her relationships with friends, teenage boys, family, and especially her relationship with her ‘beloved brother’, Basi. Through Naledi’s ‘reflective voice’, Molope broaches a range of complex issues relevant to teenagers coming of age in South Africa today: ‘… sexuality, … dangers of a naïve response to … heterosexual attraction, the divide between rich and poor, the complexity of integration at schools, clashing value systems, competing views of personal and social loyalty, and betrayal’.

Sensitively, Molope captures the uncertainty and naïveté of thirteen-year-old Naledi caught in a world where attractiveness to the opposite sex is an overriding adolescent concern. Naledi takes pleasure in the attention of Kitsano and the invitation to the Matric Dance. But attraction to the opposite sex becomes confusing and traumatic for her after Naledi witnesses Basi sexually abusing his girlfriend, Moipone. She is devastated by Basi’s ‘callous indifference’ to the rape’s effect on Moipone and Moipone’s social ostracism. ‘Naledi struggles to come to terms with her parents’ blind belief in him and the social mores that protect him’.

In their citation, the adjudicators stated that [i]n exploring Naledi’s painful dilemma, Molope never becomes didactic. The account is nuanced and sensitive, making it possible for readers to understand her agonising inner struggle and why she does not speak out at the time. At the heart of this novel is a challenge to recognise the disempowerment of women who are abused. Society condemns women who have been raped or who know about rape to remaining silent. If they speak out, they are thought of as vindictive liars or loose women or even traitors. The title reveals the complexity of Naledi’s decision to reveal her brother’s guilt and makes the injustice of such action imaginatively inescapable.

The adjudication panel consisted of Elaine Ridge (convener), Eva Hunter (University of the Western Cape) and Shaun Viljoen (Stellenbosch University).

The Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature

1. The prize is called the Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature.

2. It was established by the South African Institute for Librarianship and Information Science and is administered by the English Academy.

3. It is awarded for an original literary work in English published in Southern Africa.

4. The work must be a work of fiction designed to interest children aged between ten and fourteen years.

5. The prize is awarded in every even-numbered year.

6. The work must have been published during the two years preceding that in which the prize is awarded (i.e. 2012 and 2013).

7. No writer may be awarded the prize more than twice.

8. A translation of a work originally written in another language may be considered provided it has been translated by the original author. In such a case, the book will be treated as if it were an original work published in the year of publication of the translation, not of the original.

About the English Academy of Southern Africa

The vision of the English Academy is of South Africa as a democratic society in which effective English is available to all who wish to use it, where competent instruction in the language is readily accessible and in which the country’s diverse linguistic ecology is respected.

Mission statement: The English Academy is concerned with all forms and functions of English. It interests itself in English in education, promotes research and debate, organises lectures, makes representations about language matters, rewards excellence and fosters the creative, critical and scholarly talents of users (and would-be users) of English in Southern Africa.

The English Academy is a non-profit organization, founded in 1961. It is governed by a Council and is administered by an Executive Committee, elected by and from Council. Membership is open to graduates and non-graduates alike who share our mission.

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