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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

“Other than my mom, I wasn’t scared of hurting anyone.” Christy Chilimigras on Things Even González Can’t Fix

By Mila de Villiers

The Instagram-era author and her bestselling-bambino.

 
With her dark tresses partly obscured by a pashmina, sipping on a Caste Lite, a lit Camel in hand, the 24-year-old Christy Chilimigras could easily be mistaken for yet another millennial patron at Melville’s #hip Hell’s Kitchen.

But there’s more to this South African Greek gal than meets the eye.

Despite not having reached a quarter of a century yet, Christy recently wrote her memoir (yes, you read that correctly) in five and a half months (yes, you read that correctly as well.)

Published by MF Books Joburg, author and journalist Melinda Ferguson’s publishing house, Things Even González Can’t Fix is an affecting, funny and searingly honest account of Christy and her older sister’s turbulent lives as the children of drug addicts – crack, in her dad’s case; marijuana, her mother’s.

Sisonke Msimang, who’s memoir Always Another Country was recently published, encourages her pupils to “Write from your scars, not from your wounds”. I ask Msimang’s fellow memoirist whether she relates to this…

“I love that so much, I’ve never heard that before,” Christy answers in her animated, unmistakably Joburg-bred voice.

“I mean I guess, sure, to a certain extent that was the case. Like when I had the [memoir] writing course with Mel [Ferguson], she came to me on the first day and she was, like, I was the only person in this room of, like, 14 people who hadn’t cried throughout. And she was like ‘This is how I know you really need to write this book’. It’s almost like I was at a point where I could … write about everything without fucking destroying myself all over again,” she responds contemplatively.

“So, sure. I guess maybe that was it. I’ve been writing about it and been thinking about it and talking about everything for so long at that point, that then you can kinda write about it more calmly, and more objectively, I think. So, sure. I think there’s a beautiful truth in that.”

Christy was concerned that she and Melinda, a recovered heroin addict who’s own memoir, Smacked, chronicles her years of substance abuse, would bash heads over her depiction of addicts.

“I was so worried she would hate me and I was fine with that, but I mean – growing up the way I did – I really can’t stand addicts and it just triggers me immediately.

“She would – I imagine, as a recovered addict – she would hope for kindness and understanding and I’m not there yet,” she continues, lighting another cigarette.

“But she was amazing and I think she was quite refreshed by it, in a sense, because I think she’s so used to addicts gravitating towards her to speak about their stories and I was coming from the other side of it. So I think I was looking at her to understand my parents more, and she was looking at me to understand her children more.

“So it was kind of serendipitous and lovely in that way and there were no hard feelings – from either of us.”

Christy’s admiration and respect for Melinda is near-tangible, supported by Christy’s powerful statement that “if anything, she’s challenged my ideas regarding addiction.”

After a brief pause and another sip of her suip, Christy continues.

“As much as she’s written about her experiences … it’s not like a chip on her shoulder, you know? I had an addict father who, like, feels like the world owes him something because he’s been through what he’s been through and he’s ‘clean’ now,” she says, air quoting ‘clean’.

“I say ‘clean’ because I don’t know. But ja, man. She challenged me. Which was cool.”

An impassioned “I don’t know how people write books otherwise! I swear to God!” serves as definite affirmation when I ask whether Melinda’s advice to write as if the people you’re writing about are dead is in any way sound.

“It was so fucking freeing because … I mean, my mom is my biggest fan and she’s always been the most supportive person. But she’s a fragile person, too.

“And that’s one of the things I love most about her. So that was really terrifying. And just hearing that … When I finished the course I didn’t think Mel would approach me about publishing my book. I didn’t think there was a book coming from it. I didn’t event want to write memoir.

“I was like, ‘I’m going to come in, learn as much as I can, and apply to fiction’. Fuck memoir. Memoir is the worst. How self-indulgent,” she exclaims, complemented with an eye-roll to end all eye-rolls.

“It’s sad that I needed that validation and that permission from someone to say ‘just write your truth’, but I think a lot of writers need that.”

Although Christy has been writing her whole life and writing about her family her whole life, she never thought that a book would materialise. It was a “sickening compulsion that drove me insane” which drove her to pen the past to paper.

Having always considered fiction writing as a possibility, she describes it as “bizarre” that she eventually wrote an autobiographical piece, without ever having considered writing a fictionalised account of her life.

“I never thought ‘let me dissect these characters, these real-life characters in my life, and turn them into fiction’,” she furthers. “It just happened and it happened really quickly – in five and a half months! – and I just ran with it.”

As our French friends across the pond can attest to, ‘mémoire’ literally translates to ‘memory’ and while Christy might only be 24 years old, there’s a heck of a lot to remember. How, tho?

“It’s odd,” she responds after a while.

“I mean, my sister and I – we were inseparable growing up and she was my rock in a lot of ways – and us speaking in our adulthoods now, it’s quite wild in that I’ll remember two specific years with such clarity and she’s completely blanked those out.

“It’s the same with me. So in those scenarios I didn’t write about anything that I didn’t remember. When I was younger I interviewed my aunt and my mom. And my mom’s a hard nut to crack, she didn’t want to tell me a lot of things. Um…”

She ashes her cigarette before continuing.

“I just have a really fabulous memory in regards to retaining these things – and also it’s tricky to forget. There’s things that are traumatic and that you block out. And all of those I was fine to not write about. I wasn’t about to” – her eyes drift towards the somber winter sky as she considers her words – “I wasn’t about to attack my sanity to try recover things but the things that were obvious, that were just sitting there neatly and that I knew to be true, I went with those. But ja, I’m sure there’s lots else I didn’t dive into.”

If the things Christy *did* dive into could be compared to oceanic depths, the Mariana Trench would be a suitable personification thereof. She unflinchingly writes about her parents’ drug use, her own alcohol abuse, her mother’s failed relationships and her own failed relationships with not a single doekie left omgedraai.

“Other than my mom, I wasn’t scared of hurting anyone. And I know that’s a selfish thing and I am fine with that,” she honestly states.

“I’ve been screamed at by many a person who loves me, who used to love me. I’ve been told by an ex that this was a betrayal of intimacy. But I said to him you’re totally right, it is a betrayal of intimacy. I fucking get that.”

The conversation is interrupted by a backfiring motorbike. Christy, noticing me skrik‘ing, laughs and mirthfully yells “Get down!”

Lolz aside…

There were times when Christy was convinced that she couldn’t publish her memoir for fear of it being “too much”.

“It’s going to fuck me up once this book is out and everyone knows it’s about me,” she explains.

“Because as much as I turn the lens on everyone else, I think I was quite hard on myself in how much I gave away. Especially with the ending. That fucked me up so much.

“I sat on my couch and my room mate got home and she was like, ‘What is wrong?’ I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe, I was like, ‘I can’t publish this, my boyfriend doesn’t need to know this’. And I read it to her and she said ‘You cannot change it!’

“So you pretend to be brave. I didn’t feel brave writing this but I faked it and then eventually … Faking bravery, I suppose, has the same end-result as actually being brave and that’s what I found throughout all of this.”

A topic she unambiguously writes about is that of covert incest: from a young age, both she and her sister were subjected to sexualisation by their father, with whom Christy no longer has a relationship.

After having spoken about this at her launch, she woke up the next day to a message from a girl that she’s known for years, which read ‘Oh dear God, I didn’t know this was a thing; this is exactly what I went through’, Christy tells me.

“So actually hearing the term for it fucked her up in a big way, but in a good way. Which is exactly how I felt when I came across it online.

“But that … that form of abuse is so subtle and I think I wrote about subtly, as well.”

She stubs her cigarette out and proceeds to denounce the insensitive, in-your-face approach so prevalent in books about, or featuring, incest.

“It’s like everyone wants you to be as hectic as possible. And when I started writing, Mel was like ‘Ah! There’s this new book called The Incest Diary out, I really need you to read it’.

“Mila, it was the most traumatising thing I’ve ever done!” she cries. “Have you read it?”

An ashamed ‘no’ escapes my mouth…

“It’s wild! It’s literally – and I’m not here to bash anyone, the author stayed anonymous and I’m really glad that she did – but I was as … as a victim slash survivor slash whatever you want to call it, I didn’t find that story … really empowering. I’m sure some people did. I was like ‘is this porn for a paedophile?’” she questions.

“It was so graphic. It was really graphic and really triggering. And then I put that down and I was like ‘Oh my God, is this what Mel’s expecting of me?’ Cause I’m not ever going to be like that. I don’t see the point of traumatising women, or men, with this thing in an effort to tell my story. Abuse shouldn’t be salacious in my mind.”

Christy attaches immense value to consent and the necessity of teaching young children about this crucial aspect of relationships, acknowledging “how much we, as his sisters and as his mother, had messed up” upon finding out that her younger brother had never heard of the word before.

“I’d love to speak to women and have that discourse but I also think the conversation needs to happen at the roots of it. So in that way I’d love to – yassis! – just chat to young boys and young girls about what consent actually is.”

Penning her past wasn’t an enjoyable experience, citing that the only vaguely likable part of her narrative was writing about young Christy; the Christy who cherishes the memory of the years spent at her beloved Wendywood house with her mother and sister.

“I hadn’t really visited that in a long time and those few years in that house, when my friends speak about their childhood, I’m like ‘ja, that was it’.

“So that was really special. I felt like I was able to reconcile my child self with my current self, which I’ve been desperate to do for a very long time.”

As for everything else she wrote about?

“Deliciously painful” comes the assured answer.

“God … Memoir … God,” she laughs in disbelief. “It’s so severe. I don’t know how I put myself through that. I get to work and I’m, like, shaking and the world is still carrying on and everyone’s just talking to you about deadlines and you’re like ‘I’m bleeding here’.”

Writing Things Even González Can’t Fix was a fairly lonely process, especially as Christy chose not to disclose what she was putting in her book as “all my closest people in my life that I would have spoken to were featured in the book and then you don’t want to speak to them because you don’t want to give them the opportunity to sway you.

“I didn’t tell my mom about the hard things I was writing, because then she’d be like ‘Oh, don’t write about that. People shouldn’t know that’. So you’re almost just completely shut yourself off from everyone.”

Christy admits that there were a few hard weeks (which she expected) after her book had been read by her mom, sister and partner, adding that they didn’t really know “if they were allowed to be angry with me.

“And I was like, ‘Of course you’re allowed to be angry with me; it’s a very selfish thing I’ve done’. It’s not easy to put my sex life out there for my boyfriend, it’s not easy to put my sister’s story out because her story is my story. So it took us all a long time to compartmentalise our roles within our love. And I was, like, ‘I know you still love me even if you’re fucking furious with me right now, that’s okay’.

“So once we learned how to navigate that, they would scream at me with abandon. Never Daniel, Daniel doesn’t scream,” she quickly adds of her boyfriend of the past two years.

“But my mom! ‘Oh my God!’ And then she’d be like ‘Do you want tea? Do you want lamb? What can I make you?’ SO Greek! I swear… But amazing. My mom’s amazing.”

It wasn’t only the content of her memoir that elicited a strong response; the South African bookselling industry took issue with the original title, The tiger, the mouse and the furious masturbator.

Letting go of the title was a “really hard thing”, because it made her feel like “I’m too much,” Christy divulges.

“I really, genuinely wasn’t expecting people to be taken aback by female masturbation. And every time people would look at me and roll their eyes, I thought ‘Oh my God, what’s wrong with ME?’ Why am I so willing to have this conversation or just to exist within this fact of life, but to everyone else – even women who I know flick the bean regularly,” she pointedly adds, “they’re still so taken aback by it.

“It wasn’t losing the title that upset me,” she muses, “it was that I felt like I was doing something wrong by wanting to speak plainly…”

Christy finds it incredulous that young girls in 2018 are being told that they’re ‘filthy’ for masturbating, querying “how the fuck” one reconciles this “‘filthy’ act that is so natural when you’re actually a sexual being later in your life … So I don’t know, man.

“Like now, I’ve also realised that I’m just going to say the damn thing and continue to talk openly, and if people don’t like how comfortable I am speaking about it – this isn’t the only topic I’m comfortable about. If you’re uncomfortable about me talking about masturbation, you’ll be uncomfortable with 80% of the stuff that comes out of my mind. So we’re probably not going to be great friends any way.

“So in that way I’m like ‘Wasn’t this a quick way we can cancel each other out? We know we’re not going to bond,” she laughs. “You just go home and Netflix and I’ll just go home and masturbate.” (LOL!)

Having covered addiction, family, masturbation, sex and relationships in her debut memoir of 256 pages, one cannot help but ask: What’s Next, Ms. Chilimigras?

“According to Mel and the back of my book, I’m working on my second book,” she grins.

“I’d really, really love to try my hand at fiction. I genuinely want to. I keep waiting for that moment of waking up from a dream and having it, having this thing and that hasn’t happened yet.

“I love scrutinising romantic love, that’s something that interests me a lot. And not even sexy love, but just humans trying to fucking make shit work. So we’ll see. I’m excited.

“But, ja. Fiction. My poor family…”

There you have it!

Book details
Things Even González Can’t Fix by Christy Chilimigras
EAN: 9781928420200
Find this book with BOOK Finder!


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Book talk: Killing Karoline by Sara-Jayne King (21 June)

Killing KarolineKilling KarolineKilling Karoline

Killing Karoline deals with important topical issues relating to adoption, identity, race, mental health and addiction.

Born Karoline King in 1980 in Johannesburg South Africa, Sara-Jayne (as she will later be called by her adoptive parents) is the result of an affair, illegal under apartheid’s Immorality Act, between a white British woman and a black South African man. Her story reveals the shocking lie created to cover up the forbidden relationship, and the hurried overseas adoption of the illegitimate baby, born during one of history’s most inhumane and destructive regimes.

Killing Karoline follows the journey of the baby girl (categorised as ‘white’ under South Africa’s race classification system) who is raised in a leafy, middle-class corner of the South of England by a white couple. It takes the reader through her formative years, a difficult adolescence and into adulthood, as Sara-Jayne (Karoline) seeks to discover who she is and where she came from.

Plagued by questions surrounding her own identity and unable to ‘fit in’ Sara-Jayne begins to turn on herself. She eventually returns to South Africa, after 26 years, to face her demons. There she is forced to face issues of identity, race, rejection and belonging beyond that which she could ever have imagined. She must also face her birth family, who in turn must confront what happens when the baby you kill off at a mere six weeks old returns from the dead.

Sara-Jayne King is a mixed-race South African/British journalist and radio presenter whose career spans over a decade and has taken her across the globe in search of remarkable stories and fascinating characters. While studying for an LLB degree in the UK, Sara-Jayne realised her passion lay elsewhere and, after graduating, she went on to complete a Master’s in Journalism in 2004. Her career began as a junior journalist in local radio in London and since then has included roles in the Middle East and Africa, most recently as a senior editor for news channel eNCA and presenter for Primedia’s talk radio station Cape Talk.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 21 June 2018
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Tokai Library, Tokai Road, (between intersections of Palm and Ebony Roads), Tokai, Cape Town
  • Book Details


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Launch: Things Even González Can’t Fix by Christy Chilimigras (7 June)

Things Even González Can’t Fix is the shockingly brilliant debut memoir of a 24-year-old Greek South African girl, Christy Chilimigras. It is nothing like My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Although there are old women in black plucking stray hairs from their chins, the nuts in the baklava appear by way of a dash of crack cocaine, a sneaky brand of sexual abuse and cereal Tupperwares, packed to the brim with dagga. It is also very funny.
 
Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 07 June 2018
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Rd, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Melinda Ferguson
  • RSVP: kate@lovebooks.co.za
     

    Book Details


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Do you want to write your memoir? Melinda Ferguson shares the know-how with Sara-Jayne King…

Melinda Ferguson, the author of memoirs Smacked, Hooked, and Crashed, is launching an online memoir writing course, ‘The Magic of Making a Start’.

Ferguson, an acclaimed publisher to boot, has been hosting writing workshops in both Cape Town and Joburg for the past 18 months.

She recently was a guest on fellow memoirist (Killing Karoline) and radio host Sara-Jayne King’s Cape Talk programme, during which the two discussed her digital debut.

Give it a listen!

Smacked

Book details

 
Hooked
 

 
Crashed

 
 
 

Killing Karoline


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Watch: Pumla Dineo Gqola discusses Reflecting Rogue, normalising freedom and undoing patriarchy on Afternoon Express

Reflecting Rogue is the much anticipated and brilliant collection of experimental autobiographical essays on power, pleasure and South African culture by Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola.

In her most personal book to date, written from classic Gqola antiracist, feminist perspectives, Reflecting Rogue delivers 20 essays of deliciously incisive brain food, all extremely accessible to a general critical readership, without sacrificing intellectual rigour.

These include essays on ‘Disappearing Women’, where Gqola spends time exploring what it means to live in a country where women can simply disappear – from a secure Centurion estate in one case, to being a cop in another, and being taken by men who know them.

‘On the beauty of feminist rage’ magically weaves together the shift in gender discourse in South Africa’s public spheres, using examples from #RUReferenceList, #RapeAtAzania and #RememberingKhwezi.

Reflecting Rogue takes on both the difficulties and rewards of wilfully inhabiting our bodies in ‘Growing into my body’, while ‘Belonging to myself’ uncovers what it means to refuse the adversarial, self-harming lessons patriarchy teaches us about femininity.

In ‘Mothering while feminist’ Gqola explores raising boys as a feminist – a lesson in humour, humility and patience from the inside. In ‘Becoming my mother’ the themes of fear, envy, adoration and resentment are unpacked in mother-daughter relationships. While ‘I’ve got all my sisters with me’ explores the heady heights of feminist joy, ‘A meditation on feminist friendship with gratitude’ exposes a new, and more personal side to ever-incisive Gqola.

Reflecting Rogue comes to a breath-taking end in ‘A love letter to the Blackman who raised me’.

Gender activist, award-winning author and full professor of African Literature at Wits University, Pumla Dineo Gqola has written extensively for both local and international academic journals. She is the author of What is Slavery to Me? (Wits University Press), A Renegade Called Simphiwe (MFBooks Joburg) and Rape: A South African Nightmare (MFBooks Joburg).

Here Pumla discusses normalising freedom, undoing patriarchy, and the state of South Africa’s universities with Jeannie D and Bonnie Mbuli:


 

Book details


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“Not allowing myself to be classified by others has been crucial in working out my own identity” – Sara-Jayne King on Killing Karoline

Killing Karoline deals with important topical issues relating to adoption, identity, race, mental health and addiction.

Born Karoline King in 1980 in Johannesburg South Africa, Sara-Jayne (as she will later be called by her adoptive parents) is the result of an affair, illegal under apartheid’s Immorality Act, between a white British woman and a black South African man. Her story reveals the shocking lie created to cover up the forbidden relationship, and the hurried overseas adoption of the illegitimate baby, born during one of history’s most inhumane and destructive regimes.

Killing Karoline follows the journey of the baby girl (categorised as ‘white’ under South Africa’s race classification system) who is raised in a leafy, middle-class corner of the South of England by a white couple. It takes the reader through her formative years, a difficult adolescence and into adulthood, as Sara-Jayne (Karoline) seeks to discover who she is and where she came from.

Plagued by questions surrounding her own identity and unable to ‘fit in’ Sara-Jayne begins to turn on herself. She eventually returns to South Africa, after 26 years, to face her demons. There she is forced to face issues of identity, race, rejection and belonging beyond that which she could ever have imagined. She must also face her birth family, who in turn must confront what happens when the baby you kill off at a mere six weeks old returns from the dead.

Sara-Jayne King is a mixed-race South African/British journalist and radio presenter whose career spans over a decade and has taken her across the globe in search of remarkable stories and fascinating characters. While studying for an LLB degree in the UK, Sara-Jayne realised her passion lay elsewhere and, after graduating, she went on to complete a Master’s in Journalism in 2004. Her career began as a junior journalist in local radio in London and since then has included roles in the Middle East and Africa, most recently as a senior editor for news channel eNCA and presenter for Primedia’s talk radio station Cape Talk.

Here Sara discusses the ramifications of apartheid, South Africans’ innate need to classify, and the necessity of not allowing herself to be defined by others for 1001 South African Stories:

Book details


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A beautiful feminist mind divorced from self-indulgence – Kwanele Sosibo reviews Reflecting Rogue

Reflecting Rogue is the much anticipated and brilliant collection of experimental autobiographical essays on power, pleasure and South African culture by Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola.

In her most personal book to date, written from classic Gqola antiracist, feminist perspectives, Reflecting Rogue delivers 20 essays of deliciously incisive brain food, all extremely accessible to a general critical readership, without sacrificing intellectual rigour.

These include essays on ‘Disappearing Women’, where Gqola spends time exploring what it means to live in a country where women can simply disappear – from a secure Centurion estate in one case, to being a cop in another, and being taken by men who know them.

‘On the beauty of feminist rage’ magically weaves together the shift in gender discourse in South Africa’s public spheres, using examples from #RUReferenceList, #RapeAtAzania and #RememberingKhwezi.

Reflecting Rogue takes on both the difficulties and rewards of wilfully inhabiting our bodies in ‘Growing into my body’, while ‘Belonging to myself’ uncovers what it means to refuse the adversarial, self-harming lessons patriarchy teaches us about femininity.

In ‘Mothering while feminist’ Gqola explores raising boys as a feminist – a lesson in humour, humility and patience from the inside. In ‘Becoming my mother’ the themes of fear, envy, adoration and resentment are unpacked in mother-daughter relationships. While ‘I’ve got all my sisters with me’ explores the heady heights of feminist joy, ‘A meditation on feminist friendship with gratitude’ exposes a new, and more personal side to ever-incisive Gqola.

Reflecting Rogue comes to a breath-taking end in ‘A love letter to the Blackman who raised me’.

Gender activist, award-winning author and full professor of African Literature at Wits University, Pumla Dineo Gqola has written extensively for both local and international academic journals. She is the author of What is Slavery to Me? (Wits University Press), A Renegade Called Simphiwe (MFBooks Joburg) and Rape: A South African Nightmare (MFBooks Joburg).

Kwanele Sosibo recently reviewed Reflecting Rogue for the Mail & Guardian. Here’s what he had to say:

In a section titled Departures at the back of her new book of autobiographical essays, Pumla Dineo Gqola, a professor at Wits University’s department of African literature, lists the topics not covered in Reflecting Rogue: Inside the Mind of a Feminist.

In some ways, Reflecting Rogue is defined as much by the things that are left out of its pages as by what is within. If nothing else, it confirms Gqola as a deeply private person, unwilling to commit the writer’s sin of betraying her loved ones in the name of forging intimacy with her readers.

In this sense, it is a principled book. More than being about biographical detail, Reflecting Rogue, Gqola’s fourth and “most personal” book, is about ideas and a celebration of the networks and examples it takes to sustain a living feminism.

Those expecting a memoir need to kill their inner voyeur, it turns out. There are no dewy-eyed reflections of her tenure at Wits, which started in 2007. There are no salacious, rare glimpses into the private life of a public individual. No self-congratulatory moments about writing books (in particular, A Renegade Called Simphiwe and Rape: A South African Nightmare) that have shaped South Africa’s public discourse in landmark ways and, disturbingly, little in the form of #FeesMustFall, especially with Wits being the epicentre of the economically focused incarnation of #RhodesMustFall.

The paragraph in which Gqola explains her stance is unnerving to a degree but perhaps it offers a glimpse into her headspace while she was selecting pieces for the book: “I am also still so raw from the violence unleashed on some university campuses in response to #FeesMustFall that I have included nothing in here about the Fallists, except in brief mention in some chapters … my position on #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall are both public knowledge, since I have written on it before.”

I had the fortuitous twin accidents of interviewing Gqola for a different project and acquiring an electronic copy of her book around the time of Women’s Day. The latter would have been an otherwise empty coincidence, except that Gqola’s chapter “On the Beauty of Feminist Rage” provides some timeous reflection on feminism in action, ensnared as it is by the fences of a patriarchal society.

The chapters in which Gqola details the sacrifices she and her circle of friends made in order to help raise each other’s children in the face of the rigours of professional life are more poignant than any academese. Her memories of the iconoclasts who shaped her formative years (like her nonconformist schoolmate Pam, who hated needlework but loved gardening) present feminism as both organic and malleable.

In “On the Beauty of Feminist Rage”, she turns to Caribbean-American poet, essayist and activist June Jordan’s 1980 Poem for South African Women. Gqola writes that “she [Jordan] reminds us that women’s action is easy to celebrate retrospectively for those who have no real interest in creating a world friendly to women, a world fully owned by all.”

Gqola’s pondering sets up a dilemma. “While we have clear ideas of the work women in different groupings did in order to make the historic march possible, we are often at a loss as to what a new women’s movement might look like,” she writes. Many have declared it dead, she says.

From the anecdotes Gqola segues into, one can surmise that, in the parlance of the day, she considers the movement to be captured by old modes and the overarching “matrix” of “heteropatriarchy” rather than being wilfully dead.

Gqola tells the story of the August 2012 ANC Women’s League-led march that was disrupted by activists from the One in Nine Campaign, which changed the tenor of that demonstration.

Then there was another momentous protest, far removed from the histrionics of August. The nationally recorded, savvy #RememberKhwezi silent protest by Simamkele Dlakavu, Tinyiko Shikwambane, Naledi Chirwa and Amanda Mavuso in April 2016 pointed at new modes of disruption.

But besides that moment, all four of those protesters are constantly engaged in feminist work, writes Gqola.

Continue reading here.

Reflecting Rogue

Book details

 
 

 
 

Rape


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Killing Karoline follows the journey of the baby girl categorised as ‘white’ under SA’s race classification and her struggle with identity, race, and rejection

Killing Karoline deals with important topical issues relating to adoption, identity, race, mental health and addiction.

Born Karoline King in 1980 in Johannesburg South Africa, Sara-Jayne (as she will later be called by her adoptive parents) is the result of an affair, illegal under apartheid’s Immorality
Act, between a white British woman and a black South African man. Her story reveals the shocking lie created to cover up the forbidden relationship, and the hurried overseas adoption of the illegitimate baby, born during one of history’s most inhumane and destructive regimes.

Killing Karoline follows the journey of the baby girl (categorised as ‘white’ under South Africa’s race classification system) who is raised in a leafy, middle-class corner of the South of England by a white couple. It takes the reader through her formative years, a difficult adolescence and into adulthood, as Sara-Jayne (Karoline) seeks to discover who she is and where she came from.

Plagued by questions surrounding her own identity and unable to ‘fit in’ Sara-Jayne begins to turn on herself. She eventually returns to South Africa, after 26 years, to face her demons. There she is forced to face issues of identity, race, rejection and belonging beyond that which she could ever have imagined. She must also face her birth family, who in turn must confront what happens when the baby you kill off at a mere six weeks old returns from the dead.

Sara-Jayne King is a mixed-race South African/British journalist and radio presenter whose career spans over a decade and has taken her across the globe in search of remarkable stories and fascinating characters. While studying for an LLB degree in the UK, Sara-Jayne realised her passion lay elsewhere and, after graduating, she went on to complete a Master’s in Journalism in 2004. Her career began as a junior journalist in local radio in London and since then has included roles in the Middle East and Africa, most recently as a senior editor for news channel eNCA and presenter for Primedia’s talk radio station Cape Talk.

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The launch of Reflecting Rogue was trending on Twitter last night. And with reason.

What do you get when you combine a venue running out wine glasses, the title of your collection of anti-racist, feminist essays trending on Twitter, and an Alan Paton Award-winning author in conversation with one of South Africa’s foremost actresses?

The launch of wunderfrau Pumla Dineo Gqola’s latest book, Reflecting Rogue, that’s what.

Last night Pumla and Rosie Motene discussed Pumla’s hotly-anticipated collection of autobiographical essays at Love Books, Johannesburg.

The following picture hardly gives the turn-out at this thought-provoking, challenging, and raucous event justice:

Rosie and Pumla covered pertinent issue regarding feminism and the policing of women’s bodies, with Pumla asserting that the way society attempts to protect girls ties in with controlling them. She dismisses societal ideals surrounding femininity and imposed gender roles, as well as the notion that women – especially girls – should be ashamed of their genitals, including regarding their vaginas as “filthy”.

Here Pumla shared an incident of her school days where a girl in a locker room was changing, and after having removed her panty for “literally 15 seconds”, refused to wear the same pair again, as the mere thought of her vagina making contact with the material, was too disgusting too bear.

Rosie’s next question was about the autobiographical nature of Feminist Rogue, inquiring whether she would describe it as a memoir. Pumla replied in the negative, also adding that she’s not interested in writing a memoir and that her next idea for a book will be a feminist reflection on Winnie Mandela.

The contentious topic of lobola was raised by Rosie, asking Pumla whether it’s possible to incorporate feminism with lobola; an ideology which is the antithesis of this tradition.

After some deliberation Pumla said “I don’t know” and described lobola as a mess – “and not a good mess.

“I have no idea how to make it less messy,” she candidly answered.

She disclosed that agreeing to a union involving lobola was the worst experience of her life.

Pumla spoke out against the ANC’s (mis)treatment of South African women, citing that “nothing has changed” since Jacob Zuma was acquitted in his rape case in 2005, when he pleaded not guilty to raping Fezekile Ntsukela ‘Khwezi’ Kuzwayo – a case which sparked public outrage, especially after Khwezi’s passing in October 2016, without her ever receiving justice.

She also stated that we have to “stop being so bloody nice” and stop pretending that the ANC Women’s League is doing feminist work. This was met by applause and claps from the riveted crowd.

Pumla described Deputy Minister of Higher Education Mduduzi Manana’s recent assault of Mandisa Duma as a “mind-fuck”, expressing that she cannot fathom how someone who publicly speaks out against sexual assault on campuses nationwide can commit such a deplorable act.

It’s hardly surprising that #ReflectingRogue was trending after only an hour into Pumla and Rosie’s discussion, which was met with glee by the Twitterati.

Yaaaasss indeed, Eusebius.
 

Reflecting Rogue

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Six local authors and publishers on decolonising editing in South Africa: a panel discussion

Malebo Sephodi, Sabata-Mpho Mokae, Rehana Rossouw, Helen Moffett, Dudu Busani-Dube, Redi Tlhabi, and Thabiso Mahlape

 
A panel discussion on decolonising South African editing was recently hosted by Jacana Media at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Panelists Sabata-Mpho Mokae, Malebo Sephodi, Rehana Rossouw, Helen Moffett, and Dudu Busani-Dube were in conversation with the author of Endings & Beginnings and radio presenter, Redi Tlhabi.

Redi opened the floor by posing the question what decolonisation means and how it manifests in African literature.

Sabata-Mpho Mokae, who writes in both English and Setswana, responded by stating that one should Africanise African language writing and not allow colonialism to impact upon it. He used the example of the Setswana word for Sunday, “tshipi”, which roughly translates to “the day we attend church”; a clear remnant of colonialism, yet an established word in Setswana which he continues to use in his work. Sabata added that South Africa has its own English and that he writes any form of English he deems fit.

According to Dudu Busani-Dube, the self-published author of the Hlomu The Wife-series, the only way we can decolonise literature is “if we write in our languages.” She spoke out against the rules which box your writing, emphasising an inherent fear of grammatical errors. Helen Moffett, freelance publisher, journalist, and author, spoke from a publisher’s persepctive, adding that aspirant writers still have the distorted idea of the “model of the old school teacher”; a figure which tells you how and what to write. Many young African writers are deterred from pitching their manuscript ideas to publishers as they’re concerned about possible grammatical mistakes which might count in their disfavour, or that their work lacks a certain literary prestige. Helen dismisses this Eurocentric approach to writing, stating that “nobody else can write your story.”

Dudu Busani-Dube

 

Malebo Sephodi, who’s recent memoir Miss Behave has been met with acclaim by critics and bibliophiles alike, spoke of her duty as an academic to write accessible texts which can reach black women without alienating them. Malebo described academia as western-centric and exclusionary, and she intended to write Miss Behave as a book which will include everyone in the conversation around race, sex, and gender roles in South Africa. She also pertinently mentioned that she wanted a black woman to publish the memoir; someone who could relate to her lived experiences, and refrain from editing critical issues addressed in texts. The book was published by Thabiso Mahlape of BlackBird Books, who was also present at the event.

Malebo Sephodi

 

Journalist and author of What Will People Say, Rehana Rossouw, stated that people learn us through our language, and that her decision to include the slang spoken on the Cape Flats (in What Will People Say) and not the “queen’s English” was a deliberate one. She shared an amusing anecdote of a trip to Lagos where a Lagosian described What Will People Say as a “kwaai” book, with a cousin of him exclaiming “no, no, it was lekker!” She asserted that she writes in English because it’s the language she was raised in, and that she’s going to claim it as such.

Rehana Rossouw

 

Helen expanded on Rehana’s comment on reaching a wide audience and how we’re restricting ourselves as we are not giving ourselves permission to write our own stories; that the presence of the legacy of colonialism is prohibiting African writers to create decolonised texts, without preconceived notions of what writing and literature, as taught in schools, ‘ought’ to be. She added that for an African writer to publish in their own language, they should have already attained a level of success in English.

Sabata reaffirmed this statement, saying that one does reach a wider audience by writing in English, yet he criticised the notion of African authors’ work being set as prescribed books for school children, as “those who write for schools, write in English”, thus ignoring the market for African language texts. He added that students are then forced to read in English, which detracts from encouraging a reading culture in their own indigenous languages.

Redi was curious as to whether Malebo experiences a sense of responsibility, writing as a young, black woman. Malebo responded yes, she has a sense of burden and expectation to write about any subject matter whilst destabilising the trope of black women in South Africa.

Here, Redi made the powerful statement that “black writers invariably become activists” which was met with agreeing murmurs and nods from the audience.

She asked Rehana whether she also felt a sense of burden, to which Rehana drily replied “Yes, I’m very burdened.” Attendees and panelists alike enjoyed a hearty laugh…

“It was my life,” Rehana explained, referring to apartheid-era South Africa. “I want to explain things in my way, the way they have been to me … The past plays out every single day in this country.

“We have to explain things to each other, that’s how we learn.”

***

Watch the live streaming of the discussion here.

And take a look at the audience’s reaction to the discussion here:

 
 

Endings and Beginnings

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Miss Behave

 
 
 
 
What Will People Say


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