New from Jacana Media, Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture by Gaiutra Bahadur:
In 1903 a Brahmin woman sailed from India to Guiana as a “coolie”, the name the British gave to the million indentured labourers they recruited for sugar plantations worldwide after slavery ended. The woman, who claimed no husband, was pregnant and travelling alone. A century later, her great-granddaughter embarks on a journey into the past, hoping to solve a mystery: What made her leave her country? And had she also left behind a man?
Coolie Woman is about the repressed history of some quarter-of-a-million female “coolies”. Disparaged as fallen, many were runaways, widows or outcasts, and many migrated alone. Coolie Woman chronicles their epic passage from Calcutta to the Caribbean, from departures akin either to kidnap or escape, through sea voyages rife with sexual exploitation, to new worlds where women were in short supply. When they exercised the power this gave them, some fell victim to the machete in brutal attacks, often fatal, by men whom they spurned. Sex with overseers empowered and imperiled other women in equal measure. It also precipitated uprisings, as a struggle between Indian men and their women intersected with one between “coolies” and their overlords.
About the author
Gaiutra Bahadur is an award-winning American journalist. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, Ms. Magazine and The Washington Post, among other publications. A former daily newspaper reporter, she was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 2007–2008. She was born in Guyana and emigrated to the United States as a child.
Richard Rive, best-known for his novel ‘Buckingham Palace’, District Six, and perhaps also for the gory tabloid details of his murder, was a sharp-tongued, posh-voiced, larger-than-life character who relished the public platform afforded him by his teaching career. By his own admission ‘grossly over-educated’, he took pleasure in berating stumbling pupils with barbs such as ‘Your mother doesn’t love you’ or ‘Have you no ambition?’
Yet, despite his apparently derisory stance, time and again Rive left the comfort of his increasingly middle-class world to nurture, defend and mentor the often beleaguered youth of South Peninsula and Athlone High. On one occasion, after witnessing protesting pupils at a school neighbouring Hewat College under bombardment from the riot police, he found himself clinging to a wire fence and screaming abuse. His own response astonished him.
The new edition of Charlene Smith’s book Mandela: In Celebration of a Great Life includes a new chapter on Nelson Mandela’s death and the events that followed it. Nambiana Buchdepot have shared an excerpt from this updated version, in which Smith writes about the anticipation of Mandela’s release from prison preceded by a global celebration of his 70th birthday.
“People of all ages went on pilgrimage from all the corners of the United Kingdom and then they gathered at Hyde Park Corner in London, an enormous sea of faces. They congregated there, 250,000 of them, and the vast majority were young people. What struck me forcibly, as I gazed over them, was that most of them had not even been born when Madiba was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1963,” Smith writes.
Read the excerpt:
In July 1988, two years before Nelson Mandela walked a free man from Victor Verstor Prison, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston suggested, in his role as the President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, that the world should celebrate Mandela’s 70th birthday in prison. Many thousands of young people especially, although not exclusively, responded enthusiastically to his call to make this the mother of all birthday celebrations. People of all ages went on pilgrimage from all the corners of the United Kingdom and then they gathered at Hyde Park Corner in London, an enormous sea of faces. They congregated there, 250,000 of them, and the vast majority were young people. What struck me forcibly, as I gazed over them, was that most of them had not even been born when Madiba was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1963, and they had not seen him since; they had not heard from him, but they had certainly heard about him from others. The point is that they had no direct knowledge of him and, since pictures of prisoners were not permitted, they did not know what he really looked like even now.
Reporters are day-to-day historians who document events, places and people other than themselves which is why Mark Verbaan’s latest book, ‘Incognito – The Memoirs of Ben Trovato’ is difficult to categorise.
The only contemporary analogy that I can think of is Diaries of a Fleet Street Fox by English tabloid reporter, Susie Boniface, who, like Verbaan, kept her identity secret for a long time.
Pan Macmillan are giving away five copies of Mark Verbaan’s Incognito: The Memoirs of Ben Trovato on Twitter.
To stand a chance of winning a copy of the book, follow @PanMacmillanSA on Twitter and retweet the following tweet before Monday, 28 July:
Why not follow Ben Trovato on Twitter at the same time, on @BTrovato!
“Dit was vir my duidelik dat daar geen beter manier is om Madiba se nagedagtenis te eer as deur die besonderse ervarings van mense wat hom ontmoet het nie.”
Só het Melanie Verwoerd, samesteller van Our Madiba: Stories and Reflections from those who met Nelson Mandela, onlangs in ‘n onderhoud aan Phyllis Green gesê. Hulle het gesels oor hierdie nuwe publikasie, Verwoerd se persoonlike ervarings met die ontslape Nobelpryswenner en die stories wat in die boek verskyn.
“Ek het van die begin af besluit om nie politici in te sluit nie. Ek het ook alle politieke uitsprake uitgehaal. Dit was vir my verskriklik belangrik dat die boek oor Madiba moes gaan en nie oor mense se persoonlike politieke standpunte nie. Ek wou ook hê dat die boek oor alle grense geniet kon word – onafhanklik van mense se ras, ouderdom (ek dink kinders sal dit ook BAIE geniet), godsdiens- of politieke oortuigings,” sê Verwoerd.
Wanneer het jy Madiba die heel eerste keer ontmoet?
Ek het Madiba die eerste keer laat in 1990 ontmoet. Jannie Momberg het ’n funksie gereël waar Madiba “vooraanstaande” Afrikaners kon ontmoet. Dit was maar redelik styf en gespanne, maar Madiba het gou mense op hulle gemak gesit. Jannie Momberg het in ’n stadium luidkeels aan Madiba aangekondig dat daar Verwoerds ook is en ons voorgestel. Ek en my voormalige man, Wilhelm, was effens bekommerd oor hoe Madiba teenoor ons sou reageer, maar hy was warm en vriendelik en het gesê hoe ’n eer dit was om ons te ontmoet. Wilhelm wou verskoning vra vir die Verwoerd-familie se betrokkenheid in Madiba se jare in die tronk, maar Madiba het hom stil gemaak en gesê dat ons mooi moet dink oor wat ons in die toekoms gaan doen. “Die Verwoerd-van kan of ’n vloek of ’n seëning wees,” het hy gesê. “Besluit wat julle daarmee wil doen.” Toe vra hy uit oor Wilhelm se ouma op Orania en stuur vir haar groete.