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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

16 Days of Activism and South African Contemporary Fiction

Glowfly DanceWhat About MeeraMy Children Have FacesBirdseyeSister Moon

By Jennifer Crocker

Every year from 25 November, for 16 days, South Africa highlights activism against gender violence, and every year comments are made in the media about how this campaign does not make any real difference to those who have the very fabric of their lives torn apart by domestic violence, because we are told that we have more to fear from those we know than from strangers – a sober thought indeed.

In addition to using just 16 days to highlight this scourge, there are other ways in which people are creating awareness of the fragility of many people’s lives as a result of domestic violence. One is through literature, music, theatre and the arts. From time immemorial authors, philosophers and commentators have written about the issues around them, often weaving entertainment with harsh realities into what become cautionary tales. For many of us, the messages that resonate most are those conveyed through stories.

The South African publishing industry appears to be on the cusp of taking the publishing world by storm, with publishers pushing the boundaries and bravely bringing books to the reading market that stir the conscience.

A number of novels have been published that tackle the issue of domestic violence and abuse – bearing in mind that abuse is not always only physical, it also does not only affect women (although women are most often its victims), and almost universally it causes a sense of shame.

When novelists bring these stories out into the scrutiny of the light, and allow themselves the freedom of created characters to portray the horrors that are perpetuated on a daily basis, not just for 16 days of a year, we are drawn into stories that are as captivating as they are instructive. Discussions that follow from the reading of these books often allow those who have suffered – or continue to suffer – from abuse to share their experiences in a safe place for the first time.

Glowfly DanceGlowfly Dance by Jade Gibson (Umuzi, 2015) is one such book. Gibson begins the novel by setting up a perfect storm, and introducing the destruction of the life of a young girl, Mai, the voice through which the story is told. Mai lives with her mother and sister Amy. She is a happy little girl. She doesn’t know who her father is, but she has her mother and her quirky grandfather. The family is not rich in monetary terms, but they have flowers and games and love. When her mother meets Rashid, this all changes; Rashid, with his red car, is an abuser of children and women. Through the beauty of the writing Gibson shows us how a happy – if unusual – family is decimated by one man’s cruelty. How cunning and coercion can make you flee your happy place and put you on the bottom rung of society. It’s a brilliant and brave book, and carries across the message that violence in a family does only one thing: it destroys hope. And hope, once broken, is lost. Rashid is one of those men we will remember long after we have put down Gibson’s book; he’ll remain in our memories as the man who stole innocence in a whirlwind of cruelty and pain.

What About MeeraWhat About Meera (Umuzi, 2015) tells the story of a young woman who is happy in her life in rural KwaZulu-Natal, until she is forced to marry a man of status, a doctor. Her loveless marriage becomes a thing of entrapment and horror. Meera flees her life with him, but is judged and becomes a shame to her family. Events spiral out of control when she travels to Dublin and does a stupid and dangerous thing from a place of desperation. The book is essentially about the loss of innocence through neglect and cruelty. In a case of life imitating art, author ZP Dala was attacked after a literary festival in Durban, apparently by a group of men who took offence to her support of Salman Rushdie, and hit her in the face with a brick. One is tempted to think that the real world may intersect with the imagined world, for violence was done to a novelist by those wielding power. And abuse is about violence and exerting power over others. What About Meera also addresses the fact that the survivors of domestic abuse are often also victims of abuse within the wider family unit, either wittingly, to keep up appearances, or unwittingly, because they refuse to see what is happening.

My Children Have FacesIn Carol Campbell’s book My Children Have Faces (Umuzi , 2013), we are taken to the edges of suffering in the Karoo, where a family has fled to escape the brutality of Miskiet, a murderer and a rapist who lives in the small town they have left. When Muis’s husband takes his ragged family back to the town, Miskiet is waiting for them. He sees Muis as a “dried out whore” but he has not forgotten her. While he still has the power to strike fear into her, he does not have enough power to stop her from doing the one thing she wants to do: get identity documents for her children so that they have a chance in life. It’s a wonderfully crafted tale spun from a composite group of people the author came to know in a little Karoo town. Muis has power, but it comes at great cost. It is price she is prepared to pay, but one that no person should be asked to pay.

BirdseyeSister MoonMáire Fisher broke our hearts in her novel Birdseye (Umuzi, 2014), where violence perpetuated against little boys shows the ugly face of almost random violence, while in Kirsten Miller’s Sister Moon (Umuzi, 2104) the reader is confronted by familial complicity where the sexual abuse of a young girl is ignored because of financial dependency on the perpetrator. The shockwaves of the abuse reverberate through the family for decades.
Albert Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” It has a ring of truth to it, because heaven knows we need as many ways as possible to address the horrible truth that lies behind violence and abuse. And not just for 16 days, but every day. There is a reason that text in books is always referred to in the present tense: it exists as a reality when a book is both closed and open. By opening up the reality of abuse and exposing it through literature, another arrow is added to the quiver exposing it in all its horror. Thank goodness we have authors who do that for us.

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign runs from 25 November to 10 December 2106.

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300 Artworks Sold and R450 000 Raised for Book Dash at the Broken Monsters Charity Art Exhibition

Broken MonstersBroken Monsters author Lauren Beukes announced earlier today that altogether 300 artworks were sold and R450 000 was raised in the name of literature at the Broken Monsters Charity Art Exhibition:

The Johannesburg leg of the exhibition was held at the Nando’s Central Kitchen in Lorentzville last night. This followed on the success of the Cape Town edition, where enough money was raised to fund 21 000 children’s books through Book Dash.

Over 120 local artists, designers, illustrators, architects and photographers were invited to depict scenes from Broken Monsters for the exhibition, which was curated by Jacki Lang. The artworks sold for R1 500 each and all the proceeds will go to Books Dash.

Some of South Africa’s most accomplished artists – Brett Murray, Conrad Botes, Kilmany-Jo Liversage, Liza Grobler and Roger Ballen – took up the challenge to reimagine the haunting scenes from Beukes’ latest book on canvas.

Sunday Times Books Editor Ben Williams tweeted from the event in Johannesburg:

Have a look at the hashtag #BrokenMonstersArt to read all the tweets from the Broken Monsters Charity Art Exhibition in Joburg:


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16 Days of Activism – Glowfly Dance by Jade Gibson

Jade GibsonGlowfly DanceGlowfly Dance by Jade Gibson

Given the recent interest in trials such as those of Pistorius and Dewani, and the issues they have raised, the themes of Glowfly Dance are highly topical. The novel, which focuses on the resilience, perspective and survival of children, examines the inability and failure of the law to shield women from violence, while protecting the perpetrators.

In a story peopled with intriguing characters, exotic landscapes and lush description, Glowfly Dance depicts the complexity of domestic violence and its devastating impact on the entire family. The novel was shortlisted for two international literary prizes in its unpublished form, and reviewers have described the book as both harrowing and beautiful.

Based on a true story, Glowfly Dance is a tale of struggle, survival, loss, humanity, resilience and hope, and includes the stories of women from across the globe. Told from the perspective of Mai, a young girl of mixed heritage, the story spans three continents and deals with issues of migration, identity, women’s refuges, abuse of women and children, law courts and violence. It exposes flaws in the ability of the authorities – legal, social, psychological and police – to protect, and thereby raises questions on policy and social responsibility. In depicting the failure of the law and society to protect women and children in danger, the novel aims to stimulate debate and ultimately bring about awareness and positive change.

Published in October 2015, Glowfly Dance has been featured as the “hero book” of Nancy Richards’ SAfm literature show and the Classic FM book show. The book is currently available in good bookshops in southern Africa, and as an ebook.

Related stories:

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Nadia Davids Talks About How Anger and Rage Fuel Her Writing

An Imperfect BlessingShort Story Day Africa’s Tiah Beautement recently interviewed Nadia Davids, playwright and author of An Imperfect Blessing.

An Imperfect Blessing was shortlisted for both the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature and the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize.

Beautement refers to a line in the novel that reads: “He didn’t tell Rashaad that he hoped never to stop being angry, not because he wanted to live in a state of perpetual rage, but because the anger was a way of remembering.”

She says the quote hit her hard, the interview taking place two days after the Charleston Church massacre in the United States and shortly after Phillippa Yaa de Villiers published her reflections on the Wits debate on the white literary system that took place in June.

Yaa de Villiers’ post, “Air you can breathe”, ends:

After Franschhoek Hugh Masekela said to me “you’ve got too much anger. you need to do that tai chi, deal with it.” I don’t agree. Anger and outrage can energise action; if not expressed they can percolate into bitterness and decay. We have to be able to listen to each other’s anger and let the anger out. It needs to be understood on its own terms and deconstructed in the terms of intellectual equality in South Africa.

Beautement says the combination of the line in the novel and the above piece made her wonder about the role anger plays in writing. “Is this true for you? Does anger feed into why you write?” she asks Davids.

The author replies: “I think Phillippa’s piece is one of the most thoughtful reflections I’ve read around the debate so I’m glad you found a way to connect the two.”

She continues that anger does fuel her writing, in companionship with other emotions such as love, jealousy, humour or compassion, but adds that the belief that anger is “negative and best eradicated” is “plainly false”. “Anger can be both diagnostic and productive: it can tell you when something is wrong and it can give you the energy and commitment to right that wrong,” she says.

Read the interview:

There are different forms of anger and (at a stretch) different forms of rage in my novel; public feelings that are directed not just towards apartheid but also private feelings that erupt in intimate spaces between people because of apartheid: difficulties that flow between an interracial couple, the limitations and possibilities of interracial friendship, the very particular anger prompted by the disappointment, helplessness and hopelessness that systemic oppression can manufacture, political differences between friends and family members. I don’t think there is anything more difficult than a conversation with someone you love when you have radically views on something that holds political importance … there is so much at stake in those battles.

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Cover Reveal: The North American Edition of The Raft by Fred Strydom

Fred Strydom

The RaftThe cover has been revealed for the North American edition of The Raft, Fred Strydom’s debut novel.

The Raft, which was published by Umuzi in South Africa at the beginning of April, was the subject of a multi-party auction just ahead of the London Book Fair, with United States publisher SkyHorse Publishing ultimately securing the rights.

SkyHorse publishing editor Cory Allyn said the novel is “Lost meets Life of Pi meets The Road“.

Strydom revealed the cover on Twitter:

Related news:

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2015 #TwitterFiction Festival Now On! Featuring Lauren Beukes, Margaret Atwood, Chuck Wendig and Many More

Broken MonstersThe Shining GirlsThe third annual international #TwitterFiction Festival kicked off this week, and the four-day event will feature Broken Monsters author Lauren Beukes, along with many more international wordsmiths.

The festival started in 2012 when storytellers far and wide were invited to share their work on Twitter. This year, writers will once again take to the popular social media platform from 11 to 15 May to create, share and enjoy original fiction.

Described as “One part storytelling. One part live action stunt show”, the #TwitterFiction Festival is organised by the Association of American Publishers and Penguin Random House and aims to “bring fiction to life with Twitter”.

On Thursday, 14 May, Beukes (@laurenbeukes) will tweet about “crowdsourced literary genre mash-ups created on demand”.

Everyone is welcome to join in! Follow the festival @TWfictionfest or by using the hashtag #TwitterFiction:


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Jassy Mackenzie Returns with Switch, the Second Emma Caine Erotic Novel


SwitchEmma Caine’s adventures continue in Switch, the latest erotic novel from Jassy Mackenzie, which will be available from Umuzi in February.

Emma Caine never thought true love would be like this. With the wickedly appealing Simon more than six thousand kilometres and two time zones away, she’s sexually deprived instead of sexually depraved. And while Simon is burying himself in work and forgetting to call her, she’s attracting interest from another, unwanted source. A rival dominatrix thinks Emma’s stealing her clients and she’s doing her best to put her out of business. If a turf war erupts, the neighbours will find out what Emma’s doing – and then the trouble will really start.

Emma needs to defeat her competitor, salvage her relationship, cope with the impossible demands of her ailing husband’s family, and deal with a surprise visitor who’s somehow turned into a permanent house guest. It’s a lot to juggle for a woman who’s most comfortable with one pair of balls at a time, but if Emma wants her happy ending, she’s going to have to grab them all.

About the author

Jassy Mackenzie travelled widely in her youth, behaved wildly, and did some things she should regret but doesn’t, before putting her past behind her and embarking on a respectable career as an editor and novelist. Her thrillers are published here and abroad. She lives and works in Johannesburg.

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NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013

NoViolet Bulawayo

We Need New NamesThe shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2013 was announced this morning, and we are very excited to announce that We Need New Names, the debut novel by NoViolet Bulawayo, is one of the six books on the shortlist.

The Man Booker Prize promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is the world’s most important literary award and fulfilling one of the objectives of the prize – to encourage the widest possible readership for the best in literary fiction – the shortlisted authors will enjoy a dramatic increase in book sales worldwide.

“Bulawayo’s use of contemporary culture, as well as her fearless defense of the immigrant experience through honouring the cadence of spoken language, sets this book apart.”
- Oprah magazine

“Stunning novel… remarkably talented author.”
- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

The winner will be announced on the 15th October 2013. Best of luck to NoViolet Bulawayo.

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We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo Longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2013

We Need New NamesNoViolet Bulawayo has been longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2013 for her pulsing debut We Need New Names. NoViolet is in fine company with twelve other writers on the list, including Penguin Random House authors Colm Tóibín and Alison MacLeod.

The shortlist will be announced on 10 September 2013 and the winner on 15 October 2013.

We are very excited to announce that Bulawayo will also be at the Mail & Guardian Festival in Johannesburg from 30 August – 1 September as well as at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town from 7 – 11 September.

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Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls Snapped up for TV by Media Rights Capital and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way

The Shining GirlsThe US edition of Lauren BeukesThe Shining Girls only debuts tomorrow, June 4th – but the book is already making waves in America’s entertainment heartland, Hollywood.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news late on Friday that The Shining Girls had been optioned for television by two companies, Media Rights Capital and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions, which intend to spin the novel about a time-travelling serial killer into, appropriately enough, a series.

Congratulations to superstar author Lauren Beukes!

MRC has picked up the rights with Appian executive producing. John Ridley, vp production at the shingle, identified the book and brought it to MRC. The project marks a rare but splashy foray into TV for Appian, which previously made the environmental reality show Greensburg.
While better known for its involvement in such movies as Ted and the upcoming Elysium, MRC has made waves in TV as the company behind Netflix’s House of Cards. It also produced HBO’s The Ricky Gervais Show and The Life and Times of Tim.

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