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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

2018 HSS Awards winners announced

Via the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

The third Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Awards: Book, Creative Collection and Digital Contribution 2018, hosted by the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), were held at the iconic John Kani, Market Theatre on 15 March 2018.

The awards laud the preeminent creative contributions of academics, curators and artists based at participating South African universities, who are working to advance HSS. The call for submissions opened in October 2017 and covered works completed between January and December 2016. Submissions comprised 39 non-fiction books, nine fiction books, 10 creative collections and seven digital contributions, and represented 23 publishers. Over 30 esteemed academics were selected as judges and reviewers.

The 2018 Winners…

Best Non-Fiction Book: Edited Volume
Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present
Brian Willan, Janet Remmington and Bhekisizwe Peterson (Wits University Press)

“This collection of essays focuses on Sol Plaatje’s native land through a multimodal approach thereby allowing readers from multiple disciplines to access and find relevant pieces of the puzzle. This is done in manner which gives the original text a contemporary feel thereby touching on very critical current themes such as identity, discrimination, media censorship, and gender just to mention a few. The essays are well presented and present a balanced critique of the original text. The book comprises of photographs, maps, copies of old newspapers, poems in different languages. This is innovation at its best. This collection couldn’t have come at the right time and touching on issues of student protests, decolonisation of the curriculum, the radical economic transformation, to mention a few.” – Judging panel comment
Best Non-Fiction Book: Edited Volume

Hanging on a Wire
Rick Rohde and Siona O’Connell (Fourthwall Books)

“The visual language of the photographs presented in this book is a powerful account of what it means to be young, rural and poor in South Africa. The photographs cover a range of social interactions from weddings, 21st birthday parties to funerals. But, more importantly the photographer captures people as they wish to be captured by the camera – irreverent, jubilant, mourning and wrapped up in the insignia of popular and global cultures.” – Judging panel comment

Best Non-Fiction Monograph

My Own Liberator
Dikgang Moseneke (Pan Macmillan South Africa)

“Dikgang Moseneke’s book contributes to the diversification of the history of South Africa’s complex liberation struggle. His memoirs go a great deal in filling a critical gap by telling the story of the PAC particularly on the question of negotiations. His memoir advances a new angle on existing knowledge.” – Judging panel comment
Best Fiction Book: Single Authored

Tjieng Tjang Tjerries & other stories
Jolyn Phillips (Modjaji Books)

“The book’s quality and style of writing is of high standard. Its content is South African. Tjieng Tjang Tjerries & other stories is a long-awaited body of knowledge about the lives of the very ordinary, the poor and marginalised. It is a strikingly original work of narrative fiction based on the mimetics of life. The texture of the writing is finely laced and covers a wide range of emotional modalities from the tragic to comical.” – Judging panel comment

Book details

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The Single Story Foundation is calling for submissions!

Via The Single Story Foundation

TSSF Journal seeks well-crafted stories about Africa, Africans, and African issues in all genres from writers of African descents or those associated with Africa. Send your poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction to journal@singlestory[dot]org. Email title should be: TSSF Journal: [Work Name], [category].

We accept all kinds of stories, whether genre or literary. Send us your speculative, thrillers, romance, comedy, Sci-Fi, magical realism, contemporary, historical, history, mystery, adventure, fantasy, etc. stories and poems.

We do not offer a specific theme to adhere to. Therefore we would like a plethora of stories that deal with different themes. Don’t be afraid to send us stories that deal with chronic illnesses, disability, LGBTQI issues, depression, and anxiety, etc.

We welcome any story or poem, in any category or subject as long as it isn’t racist, sexist, or promoting hatred. We believe that anything, from speculative fiction to romance, to a queer space opera, can be a wonderfully well-written story or poem.

Submission should be sent as a .doc or .rtf attachment, one single document. Failure to adhere to this will result in rejection. Also, entries submitted in the body of the email will not be accepted. Your contact information, such as your name, address, phone, and email, should be in the body of the email. Your bio should also be included in the body of the email.

TSSF Journal is published yearly. We read year-round, so it is not uncommon for a decision to take up to 6 months. If you have not heard from us since the initial confirmation email, please assume your submission is still under consideration. Please, do not send new work until we call for it.

We do not accept simultaneous or previously published works. Do not send us multiple submissions. TSSF Journal will only accept one submission at a time from an author. We will automatically decline any additional submissions. We accept email submissions only. There is no submission fee. At this time, we do not pay our contributors.

Click here for the submission guidelines.

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Johannesburg Collectable Book Faire (7 April)


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One year anniversary of Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma (20 March)

Via The Book Lounge

It has been a year since the release of this highly-anticipated debut collection from one of the country’s most acclaimed young voices, marking a massive shift in South African poetry. Reprinted five times in 2017, Collective Amnesia is now in it’s seventh printing and shows no sign of slowing down.

Koleka Putuma’s exploration of blackness, womxnhood and history in Collective Amnesia is fearless and unwavering. Her incendiary poems demand justice, insist on visibility and offer healing. Collective Amnesia is a powerful appraisal, reminder and revelation of all that has been forgotten and ignored, both in South African society, and within ourselves.

Koleka has written an engaging account of her experiences since the publication of the book. For insight into her journey, read the blog post here.

Join us as we celebrate the anniversary of this remarkable collection. There will be readings by Koleka as well as a signing. There will also be limited Collective Amnesia merchandise for sale.
Event Details

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Doomsday in her own lifetime: a woman turns her back on her paranoid, survivalist family one book at a time, writes Jennifer Platt

Published in the Sunday Times

Educated: A Memoir
Tara Westover, Hutchinson, R320

The cover looks like it’s set somewhere in South Africa. A derelict classroom table and chair are the only signs of life in the middle of golden veld overlooked by a blue-tipped mountain. But this is Idaho – a state in the good ol’ USA whose governor CL “Butch” Otter looks like he may have walked straight out of a Dallas episode with a cowboy hat and an aw shucks ma’am smarm. This is also the state that recently rejected a bill to confiscate guns from convicted domestic felons. So your husband, who has been found guilty of abusing you, still has the means to shoot you.

This is the state where, remarkably, Tara Westover, the last child of seven kids, grew up – in a small, mountainous part of it called Buck Peak. Her dad is a full-on anti-government survivalist, her mom a midwife so that they would “be completely off-grid … and she would be able to deliver the grandchildren”.

In the intro, this is what Westover writes: “On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping. I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school.”

Nor do they go to the doctor or the hospital, even when seriously injured, even when her mother is so badly concussed after a car accident that she has to stay in the darkness of their basement for years, even after her brother Luke suffers third-degree burns so horrific that his flesh melts off. “Papery ropes of skin wrapped delicately around his thigh and down his calf, like wax dripping from cheap candles,” writes Westover.

Westover dedicates this book to another brother, Tyler. “Tyler influenced me,” says Westover in a phone interview from what is now her home in Cambridge, England, near the university where she received her PhD. “If it wasn’t for him, I would be still living that life. I can’t even contemplate it.”

Tyler got out. He taught himself and got a high-school diploma. Then he went to college. This was not celebrated in the family. His father says: “A son of mine, standing in line to get brainwashed by socialists and Illuminati spies.” Their father preaches about the big bad world out there and how the government is waiting to come get them. “I think my father is bipolar and this feeds his paranoia,” says Westover. They each have a go bag – in case the police or FBI comes for them, and they can escape to the mountains. Her father invests in silver coins and keeps them in the basement with his cache of guns.

Now that Tyler has gone off to college, Westover at the age of seven has to step into his place as one of her father’s crew, hauling scrap metal in a junkyard.

Like Tyler, she wants something different for herself. “I wanted to learn. I don’t know when it became something I needed to do, but I just felt it.” Her gateway into the world started with her singing – surprisingly something that her father was proud of and supported.

Then another of her elder brothers comes back into her life after having disappeared for six years. She gives him the pseudonym Shawn in the book. At first he seems like her saviour: he helps her with a neck injury, saves her from falling off a horse, and drives her to her theatre rehearsals in Worm Creek as she prepares to sing in musicals.

But one night, at the age of 15, Westover refuses to fetch a glass of water for Shawn – he loves to give orders, a power play he revels in. He drags her by her hair to the bathroom, forces her head into the toilet and twists her arm until she nearly faints. This is the beginning of many years of abuse.

The memoir takes on a frenzied thriller-like tone. You want nothing more than for Westover to get away. She gratefully does escape for bits of time. Like Tyler, she teaches herself, gets her high-school diploma and for the first time steps into a classroom, at Brigham Young University. In one instance she asks the lecturer for the definition of a word she has never heard before. Surly, the teacher answers, “Thanks for that.” The word is “holocaust”.

She goes back home in the holidays, changed. “I don’t think that education is so much about making a living, it’s about making a person,” she says.

She asks her parents to intervene to get Shawn to stop abusing her, but they deny it ever took place and tell her that she has “false memories of what happened”.

“I had a mental breakdown but with therapy I finally accepted that I was telling the truth,” she writes. And she had her journals, proof that her memories were real. These are largely what she bases her memoir on. Westover and her parents are now estranged.

Asked if she would give her own 15-year-old any advice, Westover is firm that she wouldn’t change anything. “You have to come to a point where you ask yourself tough questions … My book is about how to remain loyal to yourself when you fundamentally change. I hope that it can help other people. That there is no shame of where you come from.” @Jenniferdplatt

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Book Bites: 18 March

Published in the Sunday Times

White Bodies
Jane Robins, HarperCollins, R285

Callie and Tilda are sisters but their relationship has always been strained. Tilda is the famous actress and has found love with the gorgeous Felix. But she keeps hinting that things between them are not great and Callie takes it upon herself to protect her sister. What she finds is sinister and leads to a web of abuse, online blogs and multiple deaths. You think you know how it’s going to end, but you don’t. With each page there is a new twist and all is not as it seems. Even Callie is surprised at the way things turn out. Who killed who and just how far will these sisters go to help each other? Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt

James-Brent Styan, Jonathan Ball Publishers, R240

What makes this biography of Christiaan Barnard so interesting is that it demonstrates how Barnard’s work fits into the worldwide scientific community, then and now. This includes interesting trivia; such as Barnard was not the first to attempt a heart transplant. It was Tom Hardy, an American, who put a chimpanzee’s heart into a 68-year-old man (he died 90 minutes later). But the most alarming take away is Styan’s insight to how access to heart operations for South Africa’s underprivileged is rapidly declining. This is despite the fact that, “in South Africa, heart disease is the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5”. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Now We are Dead
Stuart MacBride, HarperCollins, R285

MacBride is one of the most acclaimed of the “Tartan Noir” writers, as no one does grim, grizzly and gruesome like him. But his most popular character is neither the noble Logan McRae nor the tough Ash Henderson, but sloppy, demanding, foul-mouthed Roberta Steel. From being the comic relief in some of the tales, Steel now has a book of her own – and long overdue. Demoted from chief inspector to sergeant for framing a rapist, she is partnered with long-suffering detective constable “Tufty” Quirrel. Loan sharks, rapists, paedophiles, graffiti artists and shit-throwing protesters, all are grist to their mill. Not as violent as MacBride’s other books, but what it lacks in thrills it makes up for in laughs. Aubrey Paton

Book details

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Readers young and old will be enthralled by Sheila Cussons’ beautifully illustrated children’s book, Trevor in the Land of Fantasy

A few months before Sheila Cussons passed away, her son Jaume Saladrigas Cussons received a surprising gift from her… a manuscript she had kept to herself for decades.

She expressed a keen desire that the book be published and become available to her many readers.

The fantasy she had written for her little brother when she was still in her teens was familiar to Jaume and his brother Jordi.

When they were young, their mother often read the Trevor stories to them. While living in Spain with her husband and sons, she must have relived her youthful writing, set in South Africa, where she had grown up and would later return to.

In publishing the stories of Trevor, the hidden manuscript can finally be shared and treasured by anyone from eight to 108.

In keeping with Sheila’s long relationship with Nazareth House, this book has been dedicated to the children and staff of this landmark of giving and caring in Cape Town.

Beautifully illustrated with her own delicate artwork, the quaint characters in Trevor in the Land of Fantasy come to life, transporting the reader with them into a world of fantasy and imagination.

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Hitchcock meets Harlem: Michele Magwood reviews AJ Finn’s twisty and slick The Woman in the Window

Published in the Sunday Times

By Michele Magwood

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window
AJ Finn, Harper Collins, R285

In the book world, success stories don’t get much better than this. Editor at leading publishing house writes a thriller under a pseudonym, a bidding auction breaks out on the synopsis alone and even before publication film rights are sold and foreign rights in dozens of countries. His own publishing house buys it for a cool two million – not realising it’s been written by the guy down the corridor – and the book is blurbed by supernovas Stephen King “Unputdownable!” and Gillian Flynn “Astounding.” It debuts at No 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

The Woman in the Window tells the story of Dr Anna Fox, once a respected child psychologist and now an agoraphobic, alcoholic shut-in. Her husband and eight-year-old daughter have left her and she drifts through the days drinking merlot and popping pills, watching the world outside her Harlem townhouse through the zoom lens of her camera. And then, one night, she witnesses – she’s damn sure she witnesses – a murder in an apartment opposite her. The victim is a woman Anna knows, but no one believes she ever met her, let alone saw her get stabbed to death. Crippled by addiction and mental illness, she must solve the mystery.

“Anna’s a mess,” says the author in an email interview. “Yet she owns her mess. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s self-aware.” Readers he meets find her relatable and intriguing, he says.

He deftly subverts the “male gaze” of so much crime fiction. “I was keen to create a female lead who isn’t passive, reactive or an obvious victim,” he writes, “and I wanted to describe her as a woman in the title – not a girl. With a few exceptions, including Gone Girl (a title that bristles with irony), these ‘girl’ books seem to condescend to women readers. Can you imagine if we referred to grown men as ‘boys’? Creepy.”

Daniel Mallory – AJ Finn – was working as a crime editor at William Morrow in New York. For 15 years he had grappled with debilitating depression which was eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder. While adjusting to new medication he took some time off work and stayed at home, watching old movies. One day as Hitchcock’s Rear Window was playing, he noticed a woman in an apartment across the street. While Jimmy Stewart was spying on his neighbours on screen, so Mallory found himself watching the woman across the way. The idea for the novel came to him right there and then, and it took him just two days to write an outline.

There’s a delicious slippery Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith aspect to The Woman in the Window. Mallory was heavily influenced by Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley) when he studied her at Oxford, and he is a lifelong fan of Hitchcock’s films. “Highsmith’s work fascinates and disturbs me because it subverts the forms of detective fiction,” he says. “The Woman in the Window is not as subversive but it does reflect, I hope, Highsmith’s lean, succinct style, and her willingness to peer into the dark corners of the human mind.”

What this book does do, with great effect, is explore the darkness of depression and psychosis, something Mallory knows only too well. Thankfully his condition is now under control.

“What’s enormously gratifying is to meet and hear from my publishers and readers around the world, and also to have the chance to speak to audiences about mental health, a topic that’s too little discussed.”

Twisty and slick, and ever so clever, The Woman in the Window is a one-sitting read. @michelemagwood

Book details

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Programme for the 2018 Franschhoek Literary Festival announced!

The quaint Western Cape town of Franschhoek will be accommodating South Africa’s literary greats from Friday 18 May to Sunday 20 May.

This annual literary festival’s 2018 line-up includes discussions ranging from the André P Brink memorial wherein Elinor Sisulu will focus on the life and times of Ahmed Kathrada, with an introduction by Karina Szczurek (The Fifth Mrs Brink); a panel discussion on what feminism looks like in 2018, featuring discussants Mohale Mashigo (The Yearning), Jen Thorpe (Feminism Is), Helen Moffett (Feminism Is) and social commentator and public speaker Tshegofatso Senne; and Jacques Pauw (The President’s Keepers) and Jan-Jan Joubert (Who Will Rule in 2019?) deliberating whether there’s a ‘recipe’ for an ideal South African president with international relations scholar Oscar van Heerden.

And that’s just day one!

Find the full programme here.

The Fifth Mrs Brink

Book details

The Yearning

Feminism Is

The President's Keeper

Who Will Rule in 2019?

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And our sunshine noir author for March is … Michael Niemann!

A new month calls for a new sunshine noir author sending shivers down the spines of local thriller fans…

This month, the co-author of the popular Detective Kubu series, Michael Sears, had the opportunity to interview Michael Niemann for The Big Thrill – the magazine for international thriller writers.

Michael Niemann, author of Illegal Holdings. ©The Big Thrill.

Here’s what the two thriller aficionados chatted about:

For more than 30 years, Michael Niemann has been interested “in the sites where ordinary people’s lives and global processes intersect,” and he has traveled and written widely about Africa and Europe as part of his academic work in international studies. Along the way, he has helped students of all ages and backgrounds to understand their role in constructing the world in which they live and to take this role seriously.

So it may seem strange that Michael turned to writing thrillers, but his experiences – particularly in Africa – inform his work and lend a richness to his characters.

His debut novel, Legitimate Business, first published in 2014 and reissued last year, featured Valentin Vermeulen, an investigator for the UN. It’s set against the sandy hopelessness of Zam Zam camp in Darfur. The sequel, Illicit Trade, also released last year, addressed human trafficking from Kenya. This month the third Vermeulen thriller, Illegal Holdings, comes out. It takes place in Mozambique against the backdrop of the vexed issue of land rights. Vermeulen is auditing a small aid agency, which has apparently misappropriated five million dollars, but the corruption goes much further than the missing money.

You are clearly familiar with Mozambique and understand its complex issues. What made you decide to set one of your novels there?

Mozambique was the second African country I ever visited. I spent time at the Centro de Estudos Africanos in Maputo, the capital, as part of my dissertation research. While there, I also had a chance to roam the city. Despite the poverty and deprivations of the civil war that was still going on, I met some of the most warm and generous people there. It’s also a country with a fascinating history. Before colonization, it was part of a vast Indian Ocean trading world. Colonization by the Portuguese was brutal and began earlier than elsewhere in southern Africa. Their first settlements there predate even the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Cape Town. Its struggle for independence was led by Eduardo Mondlane, an assistant professor of anthropology from Syracuse University.

The second reason was the worrisome development of foreign land acquisitions on the African continent after the 2007/08 crash. Mozambique is one of the countries where biofuel companies, hedge funds and others have bought vast stretches of land. I thought that was a suitable topic for a thriller.

Vermeulen seems happiest when he is operating where “ordinary people’s lives and global processes intersect” and much less comfortable in the hierarchical structure of the UN in New York. Once he reaches a country, he tries to understand the people. Do you see a lot of yourself in him? (Hopefully you didn’t spend your career being shot at!)

Of course, his overall concerns are rather similar to mine, we both have a strong interest in justice. But I purposely chose a protagonist that was rather different from me – being shot at is only one of the crucial differences. The closest I ever was to bullets was my mandatory service in the German army. But Vermeulen’s MO is really more common sense. People don’t do things randomly, they do them because, at the time, the choices made sense in their context. So unraveling a mystery really means understanding people. That’s even more crucial when coming to a country and culture different from one’s own. Vermeulen has been in enough strange circumstances to realize that asking questions is the best starting point for an investigation. Any good investigator, police officer or private detective knows that.

Illegal Holdings features three strong female characters, Aisa, who is the director of a small NGO (Nossa Terra) concentrating on resettling people on the land; Isabel, the director of the Maputa branch of a big funder (Global Alternatives); and Tessa, Vermeulen’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. Was it part of the plan to juxtapose these very different women?

I wish I could claim so much plotting, but two of the female characters developed as the novel progressed. Tessa was a given since she’s a recurring character. Aisa Simango is a composite of the many strong women I have met during my work on the continent. For example, in 1999 I visited a number of human rights organizations in four southern African countries for a project documenting regional approaches to advance human rights protections. Every one of these was led by women who were in the forefront of the struggles to make lives better for their compatriots. Nossa Terra was inspired by the Union of Cooperatives, a female run organization that provided much of the food for Maputo during the civil war.

Isabel LaFleur really popped into my head as I began fleshing out the staffing of Global Alternatives. There is a general presumption that people working in development aid are compassionate individuals. So I asked, “What if that person is a blatant careerist?” She is a strong character, but only in the sense of looking out for herself.

Continue reading their conversation here.

Legitimate Business

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Illicit Trade

Illegal Holdings

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