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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

“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:

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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

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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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Launch: Reflecting Rogue by Pumla Dineo Gqola (10 August)

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).

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 10 August 2017
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • RSVP: Savannah Lucas, rsvp@jacana.co.za
     

    Book Details


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Pumla Dineo Gqola’s Reflecting Rogue delivers 20 essays of deliciously incisive brain food written from anti-racist, feminist perspectives

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).

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Watch Malebo Sephodi’s TED Talk on the importance of self-care as tool of liberation

Upon encountering historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s quote, ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’, Malebo Sephodi knew that she was tired of everyone else having a say on who and what she should be.

Appropriating this quote, Malebo boldly renounces societal expectations placed on her as a black woman and shares her journey towards misbehaviour.

According to Malebo, it is the norm for a black woman to live in a society that prescribes what it means to be a well-behaved woman. Acting like this prescribed woman equals good behaviour. But what happens when a black woman decides to live her own life and becomes her own form of who she wants to be? She is often seen as misbehaving.

Miss-Behave challenges society’s deep-seated beliefs about what it means to be an obedient woman. In this book, Malebo tracks her journey on a path towards achieving total autonomy and self-determinism.

Miss-Behave will challenge, rattle and occasionally cause you to scream ‘yassss, yassss, yassss’ at various intervals.

Here, Malebo discusses the complex relationship women have with themselves, societal pressure, the marginilisation of women’s bodies, balancing your domestic life with your professional life, and the importance of self-care as tool of liberation:

Miss Behave

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Two books to remember Ahmed Kathrada by

Ahmed Kathrada, former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist, sadly passed away this week on Tuesday 28 March after a brief illness. Kathrada dedicated himself to the struggle and remained politically active until his death. The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, which he founded, continues to work towards promoting ‘the values, rights and principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa’. He will be greatly missed.

Here are two books to remember him by:

A Free MindA Free Mind: Ahmed Kathrada’s Notebook from Robben Island

During his 26 years in jail, Ahmed Kathrada refused to allow the apartheid regime to confine his mind. Despite draconian prison censorship practices and heavily restricted access to the written word, Kathrada discovered a wealth of inspiring writings. A Free Mind presents extracts from poetry, novels, songs, sayings and letters that Kathrada transcribed and treasured as he served his life sentence in South Africa’s notorious Robben Island Maximum Security Prison. It includes quotes from Bertold Brecht, Mahatma Gandhi, Emily Brontë, Karl Marx, Olive Schreiner, Shabbir Banoobhai, Voltaire and many others.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dear Ahmedbhai, Dear Zuleikhabehn
Dear Ahmedbhai, Dear Zuleikhabehn: The letters of Zuleikha Mayat and Ahhmed Kathrada 1979–1989

Dear Ahmedbhai, Dear Zuleikhabehn is the compilation of the beautiful letters sent between Rivonia trialist and political prisoner Ahmed Kathrada and Zuleikha Mayat, a self-described housewife, during apartheid’s last decade. These letters tell the story – all the more powerful for its ephemeral character – of a developing epistolary friendship between two people to whom history has brought different gains and losses. The collection is rich, not merely in historical content and stylistic interest, but in the experience it offers to the reader of an unfolding conversation, reflecting both the immediate worlds of its authors and a tumultuous period of South African history.
 
 

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Amabookabooka chat to Sam Cowen about her memoir From Whiskey to Water

Amabookabooka, the quirky podcast devoted to interviewing local authors about their work, made its Daily Maverick debut recently.

In this episode, producers Jonathan Ancer and Dan Dewes chat to Sam Cowen, author of From Whiskey to Water.

Cowen’s 2016 memoir recounts her experiences of alcoholism – some funny, some terrifying – and how she overcame her dependency by replacing whiskey and wine with the source of life: water.

From the powerful effect that braving the icy Atlantic Ocean had on her to the process of writing about her past – Cowen, Ancer and Dewes cover it all.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

From Whiskey to Water

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