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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

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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A lifelong love affair with the natural world: The Big Cat Man: An Autobiography by Jonathan Scott

Jonathan Scott understands the animals he photographs so well – it is as though he can see the world as they do.

- David Attenborough

The Big Cat ManIn The Big Cat Man: An Autobiography, BBC’s Big Cat Diary presenter Jonathan Scott reveals the fascinating – sometimes painful – story of his journey of becoming one of the world’s most respected wildlife presenters, writers and photographers:

He published the book concurrently with Sacred Nature.

From a childhood spent on the family farm in Berkshire to travelling 6 000 miles overland in Africa and starting a career as a wildlife artist and safari guide, Jonathan’s tale is that of a lifelong love affair with the natural world. And a fervent desire to see it nurtured and preserved.

Beautifully illustrated with drawings and photographs by Jonathan and his wife Angie – herself an acclaimed wildlife photographer – this new autobiography is not only a gripping read but a thought-provoking one. It raises uncomfortable questions about the future of wildlife on a continent where the needs of the people sometimes can seem overwhelming. It will bring hope to those who have struggled with their own demons. But most of all, it is an inspiration to those determined to follow their dream, whatever it may be.

You can’t make, buy or fake passion. And when it comes to big cats, Africa and wildlife, Jonathan has passion in buckets. Along with knowledge and a great love.

- Chris Packham

A cracking tale – and crackingly well told, with deftness, compassion and humour. From the man whose name is synonymous with big cats, this is the brutally honest and insightful story of a life lived to the full.

- Mark Carwardine

About the author

Jonathan Scott is the author of 30 books, latterly co-written with his award-winning photographer wife Angela. His early works include The Marsh Lions (co-written with Brian Jackman), The Leopard’s Tale and The Great Migration; collaborations with Angie include Antarctica: Exploring a Fragile Eden, Mara-Serengeti: A Photographer’s Paradise, Stars of Big Cat Diary and immensely popular safari guides to East Africa’s animals and birds. In addition to working on Big Cat Diary and its spin-offs for 12 years, Jonathan has presented many other wildlife programmes for British and American television. He and Angie travel widely through Africa, Asia and Antarctica, hosting safari and photographic holidays, collecting material for their own work and revelling in their shared love of wildlife and wild places.

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Ronnie Kasrils’s Alan Paton Award-winning book The Unlikely Secret Agent published in French

nullThe Unlikely Secret Agent

Jacana Media is delighted to announce that The Unlikely Secret Agent by Ronnie Kasrils, recipient of the 2011 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award, has just been published in French by Mardaga Publishing.

On hearing the news of the French edition, author Ronnie Kasrils had this to say: “I am particularly delighted that this book about an unsung heroine of South Africa’s national liberation struggle is appearing as a French-language publication.

“The anti-fascist resistance in Europe during World War Two has resonances in this book about a daring young woman who was prepared to sacrifice her freedom to a just cause. I believe French-speaking people of all ages will be inspired by this Scots-born woman who grew up in South Africa and became the first female operative in the clandestine armed struggle under Nelson Mandela’s command.”

Written after the death of his wife in 2009, The Unlikely Secret Agent tells the story of Eleanor Kasrils, one of the few white South African women to engage in armed struggle against the apartheid regime. A story written with humility and a pride that the reader can only share.

Ronnie’s response to Eleanor’s sudden death last year at home in South Africa was to write this extraordinary book at breakneck speed. It is a love story, a historical document of great importance, and a terrific tale of a clandestine success.

- Journalist and writer Victoria Brittain

A poignant and beautiful book.

- James McAuley, Washington Post

This “little” book about an “ordinary” woman with the heart of a lioness confirms the truth that our freedom was not free. From its pages rings out another truth that among the outstanding heroines and heroes of the South African struggle were those who did not set out to perform heroic deeds. These are the heroic combatants for freedom like the Unlikely Secret Agent, Eleanor Kasrils, the subject of this engrossing “little book”, who did the equally “little” things without which victory over the apartheid regime would have been impossible.

- Former President of the Republic of South Africa Thabo Mbeki

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Zoleka Mandela tackles the effects of chemotherapy head-on

When Hope WhispersZoleka Mandela, who is battling a renewed cancer scare, has decided to tackle the effects of chemotherapy head-on by shaving off her hair.

Mandela’s hair has been falling out due to gruelling chemo sessions‚ but instead of feeling defeated she has opted for bravely shaving her head.

“Sunday‚ 21st August 2016 marks the day I finally shaved off the little hair my chemotherapy left on my head! The eyebrows are on their way too as you can see but it all grows back‚” she said on Instagram.

Mandela, who has been sharing her journey with her followers in an attempt to inspire other cancer sufferers, has said that she’s not concerned by the loss of her hair and feels strong. She still has to undergo eight more sessions of chemotherapy.

“I’m not bothered! I don’t mind that my chin hairs are no longer growing either‚ I was never into the Catfish look anyway!!!

“I feel completely liberated at this point and much stronger too! Time to knock the next 8 sessions out the ball park.”

Mandela was first diagnosed with breast cancer about five years ago and had been in remission until a few months ago. She wrote about her journey in a powerful book, When Hope Whispers, published by Jacana Media in 2013.



In May this year Mandela announced that her battle with cancer was not over after a cancerous lump was discovered in her breast. As a result she had to go under the knife to remove the tumour and reconstruct her breast. She started chemo a month later.

When Hope Whispers

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J’Something and Hugh Masekela join forces to create a killer track [video]

Still GrazingMicasa’s J’Something and legendary musician Hugh Masekela have collaborated on a track which pays tribute to the beauty of the South African landscape and its people‚ called “Heaven In You”.

The song was created in less than 48 hours as part of the Mercedes Benz #EveryTerrain challenge, for which local stars venture across South Africa and tackle every terrain.

This time Bra Hugh‚ as he is affectionately known‚ and J’Something took to the south coast of the country‚ Tsitsikamma‚ to find inspiration for their newest collaboration.

Taking to Instagram‚ J’Something shared his experience‚ saying: “I got to spend some time with the legend Hugh Masekela and this journey sparked my creativity. We came up with a song called Heaven In You which is my love letter from Bra Hugh to South Africa.”

“I really wanted to pay tribute to you [Hugh]‚” said J’Something of the song‚ to which Hugh responded‚ giving his nod of approval: “It’s brilliant.”

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Join Sam Cowen for the launch of From Whiskey to Water with Melinda Ferguson at Love Books

Invitation to the launch of From Whiskey to Water

From Whiskey to WaterJacana Media and Love Books invite you to the launch of From Whiskey to Water, the no-holds-barred memoir by beloved radio talk show host Sam Cowen.

Cowen will be in conversation with Crashed author Melinda Ferguson on Thursday, 7 July, at Love Books in Melville. The launch will start at 5:30 for 6 PM.

From Whiskey to Water tells the story of Cowen’s struggle with her addiction to whiskey, food and finally to a passion that saved her life – marathon swimming.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 7 July 2016
  • Time: 5:30 for 6 PM
  • Venue: Love Books
    The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre
    53 Rustenburg Road
    Johannesburg | Map
  • Interviewer: Melinda Ferguson
  • RSVP: Takalani,, 011 628 3200

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Sam Cowen opens up about beating alcohol addiction in From Whiskey to Water

My name is Samantha and I’m an alcoholic.

From Whiskey to WaterFrom Whiskey to Water is the no-holds-barred memoir by beloved radio talk show host Sam Cowen:

Having kept her alcohol addiction well away from the public eye for over 14 years, in this tell-all tale Cowen finds the courage to talk about her struggle with her addiction to whiskey, food and finally to a passion that saved her life – marathon swimming. Told in her characteristically hilarious deadpan style, this is one of the bravest books you’ll read this year.

“So this is a book on how I stopped drinking? No, it’s not. It’s how I stopped drinking, started eating, became clinically severely obese, stopped eating (everything that wasn’t nailed down) and swam my way to freedom. No, it’s not. It’s actually about addiction and learning and sadness and anxiety and love and drive. It’s about channelling the unchangeable into the miraculous. It’s about dragons and learning how to put them to sleep when you can’t slay them. It’s about being my own Daenarys.”

If you’re battling with addiction or looking for inspiration on self-acceptance then this is a book you should pick up … it’s about trying to swop being perfect for being human, a daily challenge. - Woman and Home

About the author

Sam Cowen is the longest-running female morning show host in the country, having worked Joburg’s biggest breakfast show on 94.7 for over 18 years with Jeremy Mansfield and Darren Whackhead Simpson. In 2015 she replaced Jenny Crwys-Williams on the wildly popular 1 PM – 3 PM slot on 702. She currently co-hosts the Weekend Breakfast Show on 702/Cape Talk with Africa Melane. Sam is also the bestselling author of Waiting for Christopher and Good Enough Mother, two popular books on motherhood.

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Do you want to get your book published, but don’t know how?

Invitation to a publishing masterclass
Out of LineThe LegacyRainfallMy Lion's HeartThird World Child

Jacana Media is hosting a question-and-answer session covering everything you’ve ever wanted to ask about trade publishing in South Africa!

Join us in conversation at this first talk in the publishing crash-course series, hosted by Staging Post.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 30 June 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Jacana Media
    10 Orange St
    Auckland Park | Map
  • Guest Speakers: Tracey McDonald (Tracey McDonald Publishers), Bridget Impey (MD of Jacana) and Klara Skinner (Staging Post)
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • Cost: Pay with a follow! Follow Staging Post on Twitter or Facebook

Tracey McDonald Publishers Book Details

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‘Dear Mama, it is me, your broken son’ – Holding My Breath by Ace Moloi

Holding My BreathBlackBird Books is proud to present Holding My Breath by Ace Moloi:

Dear Mama,

It is me, your broken son.

Although the earth’s sorrows dimmed your light from us, I trust heaven has bestowed upon you the glory and dignity you deserve. You and I last spoke in February 2005, five days before you passed away. When you succumbed to your illness – which remains a mystery to this day – I was a mere 13-year-old who not only had to adjust to a new school, but also get used to the reality that you would never live to tell intriguing tales of your childhood. A decade has since passed and as I write you this note I have only heard from you once. You appeared in a dream to reprimand us for the culture of begging which we had adopted shortly after we laid you to your final rest.

This is how Ace Moloi starts his book, a letter to his deceased mother. This book, this letter, is an important and necessary look at the state of our country 21 years into our democracy. It is the story of constantly holding your breath, hoping nothing else goes wrong.

In a searing and beautiful narrative, Moloi manages to take the reader through various South African issues like:

  • The trials of child-headed families in South Africa
  • The volatile issue of service delivery in townships
  • The story of broken families
  • Why Fees Must Fall
  • Racial division in universities

Funny in parts and tragic in others, this is the ultimate South African story.

About the author

Ace Moloi is from QwaQwa in the Free State. This is his first commercially published book. He studied at the University of the Free State where he was an award-winning student leader and campus journalist and earned a degree in Communications. He has just finished an internship programme at the Joburg Roads Agency and is currently looking for a job.

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A loss of innocence – Read an excerpt from Exit! by Grizelda Grootboom

Grizelda Grootboom


Exit!Jacana Media has shared an excerpt from Exit! by Grizelda Grootboom.

Exit! is the story of how Grootboom was betrayed by a friend and sold into human trafficking in Johannesburg at 18 years old. However, her life up until that point was a cycle of abuse and neglect.

After being abandoned by her father at eight years old, Grootboom lived on the streets of Cape Town for a few months, before managing to track her mother down in Khayelitsha.

But her mother had a new family, and Grootboom spent her time cooking and cleaning, with regular beatings and no hope of going to school. But it was when she and a group of friends were raped that she decided to leave her mother’s house forever, at the age of just nine years old.

Today, Grootboom has turned her life around, and works as an advocate for Embrace Dignity, an NGO that opposes commercial and sexual exploitation, and human trafficking.

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *

By the time of my third stay in Khayelitsha, I had learnt basic isiXhosa greetings, and had slowly got used to the culture of Site C. At my mom’s house I was spending most of my time cleaning and cooking, but by now I knew the routine in the house, and I had a plan for how to deal with my mom.

When she came into the house after work, I would grab the bucket and casually walk out so I could say I was going to get water. I knew she would have seen how the long queue at the tap was when she was walking back, and I could guess how much time I had before I needed to be home with the water.

Then I would ask the people in the queue to move my bucket along the queue – that is how I made time to play. By then I had some friends there, three girls who lived around us. We girls used to play games after they came back from school and while I was fetching water for my mom, games like ‘iThoti ezintathu‘.

To play ‘iThoti ezintathu‘ you line up three cans in the middle of a circle drawn on the ground, and two teams stand on either side. One team tries to hit the cans with a ball, and then the other team catches the ball on their side. After someone hits the cans, they run into the circle to put the cans up again, and the people on the other team try to hit that person with the ball. You have to dodge the balls at the same time as lining up the cans again.

When you see that kind of game being played close to a tap, and you’re nine years old, you’re going to want to join in! My new friends and I were all between nine and twelve, and we’d play in the time I had stolen while my bucket was in the tap queue.

I loved playing this game and the girls I played with quickly became good friends. I didn’t have to worry about speaking good isiXhosa with them because they wanted to speak English, of which I knew a little.

But we weren’t the only people playing games.

Efoli‘ was a common game among tough gangster boys in the community. It means ‘get raped’.

One day it got late as we were playing near the tap. As it got darker, the streets got emptier, but it wasn’t dark yet – just dusk, when the house lights are on and the moon is just rising.

Some of the boys in the community where watching us from nearby. They were about sixteen years old. One of my new girlfriends, the oldest one, who was twelve, knew one of these guys. She kept looking over at him.

‘Hey, sana‘, the guys yelled out.

Hayi, suka‘, we replied.

Would anyone watching have thought that we were trying to attract these boys with our childish game? But the four guys strolled over, and casually put a knife to the oldest girl’s side, and to us she said, ‘Masihambeni‘ (let’s go). We knew she was thinking that if we didn’t go with her they would stab her and run away.


I was the youngest. I was the last.

I was terrified and in pain.

They are on top of me.

They all came into the room at the end.

There were all these legs around me, and sperm on my face.

Then they let me go.

It was a long walk home. I was clutching my skirt between my legs and there was blood streaming down my legs.

The thing I remember is that there was a neighbour watching me as I walked all the way down the street to my mother’s house. She was also a mother, and I knew her. She had smiled at me sometimes before when she had seen me playing at the tap – when she smiled I thought that she had felt happy for me, happy to see me adapting. But that night she just stared at me. And I felt blame and judgement. Her look made me feel shameful. When you’re out at that time, it’s like you asked for it.

When I arrived home, my mother was drunk and ready with a sjambok. Hitting me, she asked me why I hadn’t brought back the water and cooked dinner. Her sons had already eaten their sheep’s head.

She beat me all over. She never asked me where I had been. I kept quiet, and when it was over I went to clean the plates. I didn’t eat supper, just licked the plates with leftover gravy still on it.

I was so angry with my mom. This was the final moment – I knew I had to leave this place. All I could think about was getting back to my dad.

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Author image: Afternoon Express

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