Tag Archive | "Book"

Book Review: Hooked


Melinda Ferguson – South Africa’s favourite former junkie – has followed the shocker of a memoir ‘Smacked’ with something easier to digest. Hooked is the story of  ‘after the story’. What happens after you have been gang raped? What happens after you have conquered the hellacious addiction and you now have your comfy job at a nice magazine and you get invited to fancy fragrance launches? What happens when you’ve aired your dirty laundry and gotten buckets of laudation for it? Well…you watch Oprah. Duh.

I opened this book rather timidly. The publishers had sent me a heady stash of books to read. When I looked them over and saw Melinda’s name ablaze on the cover in a cautionary yellow, I decided to heed the warning and leave her book for last. I had heard about this Melinda. She was the one who had surfed the flaming waves of danger, given the devil the finger and lived to tell the tale. ‘Smacked’ was legendary stuff! I cannot emphasize enough how much you need to read that book.

Eventually I galvanized my energies and plunged into Hooked. I wondered, what has Melinda been up to now? She couldn’t possibly have landed up in a bigger lump of manure than the last one she was rolling around in; please tell me she’s not back to her old ways! I am pleased to report all is well with Melinda. She has not relapsed…thank God. She has not shaved her head, or resigned herself asceticism. Dare I say it? Melinda Ferguson is now… normal? Read the full story

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Book Review: We Are


Natalia Molebatsi

Natalia Molebatsi has compiled put together a rich collection of vibrant poems from some of most intriguing female poets out there. With each poem this anthology gently guides you through both the plains and jungles of femininity. The honesty is refreshing and the quality is inspiring. Each poem is a universe of possibilities. Contributors include Shelley Barry, Malika Lueen, Sabata Mpho Mokae and Otumile Shupinganeng amongst others. What is striking is that each poet has her own unique voice but they still manage to come together and perform harmoniously.

–         Keitumetse Segoai

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The Postmistress – Book Review


The arrival of this book in my life was laced in poetry. It arrived around the time of Mandela’s birthday. The TV was awash with documentaries about the great man’s life. Without fail all of the documentaries noted how close South Africa came to being a blood-soaked war zone. But alas, justice, peace and reconciliation won the day! The TV kept telling me how glad I should be because I have been spared the trauma of war, whilst the pages of this book kept telling me about the traumas of war.

I cannot stress how grateful I am that I have not experienced war firsthand. I relish my ignorance at having soldiers march down the road. I know nothing of hearing bombs serge overhead as I pray that my home not be where they decide to land. The suburbs have kept me safely sequestered from the ravishes of war and I am truly thankful.

For the people in the world, created by author Sarah Blake, sadly the pendulum tipped in the other direction. In 1941 peace was fast becoming a luxury for Europe and America. A failed painter chose to paint the town, then Europe, then the world a dashing shade of blood red. He waved his stroke so mercilessly the world is still having trouble comprehending his work. Adolf Hitler and his gang of Nazi thugs were on a rampage of gargantuan proportions.

Sarah, the author, sifts through the global catastrophe and delicately draws our attention to three impressive women. Frankie Bard the journalist, Iris James the postmistress, and Emma Fitch the newlywed. Even though they are so exceptionally different their surrounding circumstances plait their respective lives together into an intriguing braid of pain, courage, and triumph.

Frankie Bard – my favourite character – is a wartime reporter. She travels to Europe and reports riveting stories of the war back to the US via her popular radio broadcasts. Across the ocean both Iris and Emma are listening in their respective homes. Their comfortable nests are ruffled by Frankie’s reports and yet they cannot stop listening. They are intrigued, fascinated and equally disturbed by the advancement of the war. At this stage the US had not sent its troops to the trenches so these two women still enjoy the luxury of distance; for them, the war is something that can be turned off by simply turning the dial of the radio. It’s not long before that self-indulgence is stripped from them.

An interesting element of the book is the fact of how different communication was back in the 1940s. Christian Amanpour was not tweeting about the war. There was no sending pictures via Facebook to let your family know that you still have all your limbs. No YouTube to watch clips recorded on some 12 year old’s smartphone of bombs landing on homes. No quick “Oh baby when are you coming home, I miss you” phone calls. In 1941 when your “baby” was gone they were really gone. They were not an SMS away. News travelled slowly, if it travelled at all, thus creating the power of the Postmistress. What happens when Iris James decides to not deliver a letter that could trigger an earthquake in someone’s dainty world? Oh but Miss Prim-and-proper Iris James would never do that…right? Which leads us to my favourite line from this novel:

“But every story – love or war – is a story about looking left when we should have been looking right.”

As is to be expected there are some rather thought-provoking insights about wartime living. Here’s one to ponder:

 “When we know there are people in need, right now, in the same breath as what we are breathing, we cannot look away. It is not abstract. We have to go. That is humanity. The whole thing relies on it. Human beings do not look away.”

Do you agree?

The book is so beautifully written that I’m struggling to not slot in any more quotes into this review. I’m flirting rather dangerously with being that idiot that keeps telling you what’s about to happen in the movie. Allow me room for one more please. It’s an important question that applies to us in 2011 just as it did for those poor people who had to endure WW2:

“How do you come to understand that the moment you may be in is historic, and what do you do about it?”

Have we been fooled by all the talk of freedom? Are we looking left when we should be looking right? Truth is ‘The Struggle’ has not been entombed in the past tense just yet. It is still very much alive. The soldiers are not marching down Jan Smuts, they’re marching up and down our veins. It’s not the airports that are being bombed, it’s our immune systems. Yesterday’s army tanks and today’s viruses leave the same trail of gruesome destruction. What are we doing about it? Looking away?

I’m sketchy on the digits but I suspect the number of people dying of AIDS these days might make Hitler wonder why he was such an underachiever. I imagine him in hell trying to get an autograph from AIDS as it walks down a flaming red carpet at a banquet held to celebrate the achievements of the top warlords.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake: provocative indeed.

Keitumetse Segoai

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Book Review: You’re Not a Country, Africa


Long gone are the days when folks used to stand on the beach and gaze into the alluring curves of the ocean and wonder what lay beyond the illusive horizon. I imagine regal warriors, curious children, and thoughtful mothers all taking a moment out of their respective 13th century day to dare to imagine what secrets the oceans were yet to spit out.

Blink. Hundreds of years pass and such wonderings are quickly quenched. Facebook, Twitter, Google, radio and TV all combine to make it simple and fast to know exactly what’s potting over the ocean. In fact the situation is now such that I’m regularly guilty of knowing what’s going on in some country hundreds of kilometres away and yet be clueless about the goings on in the lives of people I live with (Hi Mom).

Today, cultures rub against each other, fuse into each other, mimic each other, and borrow from each other on a daily basis. In Johannesburg alone, it is expected for you to be multilingual, for instance it is not uncommon to speak English with your colleagues, Zulu with your friend and Tswana with your favourite aunt and throw in some Afrikaans when dealing traffic officers.

Reading this book, ‘You’re Not a Country’ by Pius Adesanmi, my attention was not only drawn to how culturally diverse the world we I live in is, but also on the definition of ‘African’ these days. I think nothing of having croissants for breakfast (French) on Sunday morning, pasta (Italian) for dinner on Wednesday, and vetkoeks for lunch on Saturday, with liberal doses of emailing, texting, tweeting, and ‘liking’ all through the week about royal weddings, Asian tsunamis, South American soccer players, and American rappers. What is so African about my Africa?

This book transported me back to the lecture rooms of Wits and mostly fond memories of my African literature studies. Names like Franz Fanon, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o are littered all across this book like radiant lilies on a fresh green plateau. Naturally Chinua Achebe enjoys prominent placement. The book opens with a message from him and characters from Things Fall Apart are constantly being turned to further elaborate whatever point Pius is trying to make.

In his book, Pius shares his personal experiences of being an African, more specifically, a Nigerian man who has had the privilege of surfing the waves of culture around the world. His insights range from amusing, enlightening to brain-knottingly (is that a word? Well, it is now) academic. An amusing experience he had was when he moved to America and found that African Americans did not share his love for Country Music.

He writes: “By far the most delicate situations came with my African American friends. What the heck was this African brotha doing? What’s with him and the music of the southern white racists? That was pretty much the situation the first time I hosted some African American graduate students who had graduated and were leaving town. They couldn’t get over my investment in country music. Not even the evidence of my no less passionate investment in jazz, rap, and R&B helped. The fact that my collection of the musical masters of the Harlem Renaissance was almost complete made matters worse. One of them wondered aloud, albeit jokingly, how I could defile the masters by stacking country music trash so close to them in my collection. I even dared to put Dolly Parton on top of Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) in my CD rack.”

Apart from the amusing, the book takes a serious look at tribal and religious friction within Nigeria, in addition to his international experiences. Honestly, Nigeria sounds crazy! The picture Pius paints is one of corruption, poverty, corruption, country music, corruption, Chinua Achebe… and some more corruption. It’s quite interesting to read about the world our Nigerian brodas come from. Learning more about our fellow Africans will do South African’s good – especially as we try scotch this Xenophobia nonsense.

Do read this one and ponder the thoughts and views this perspicacious man shares. How are you surviving the milieu of this new millennium? Are you merely consuming and regurgitating it or are you taking the time to adapt it to yourself and perhaps even change and affect it in some way (preferably positive, thanks). What is your definition of South Africa and Africa, in fact, let’s be honest… when was the last time you thought of yourself as an African? I know South Africans are regularly guilty of referring to “those Africans” as if we ourselves are not just as African as they are.

Warning: Pius is actually a Professor – a Professor of English in Ottawa, Canada no less – what that means is that he uses words like fissiparous, impasse, comeuppance, concatenating on a very, very regular basis. So do make sure your dictionary app is good and ready to be abused. Being a logophile I devoured these delicious words. For the first few chapters of the book I tossed about in them like Scrooge McDuck swam about in his coins! But around about the third section of the book I had had my fill of the verbiage and my mind was bloated from the gluttony – frankly I was tired of looking up every fourth word.

That, however, is no reason for you to not read the book. Read it. I will make you feel smarter and you’ll have something intelligent to say next time you’re at a chisa nyama, eating boerewors, sipping on Irish brandy and American coke, wearing Italian sneakers, whilst leaning on your German luxury vehicle.
Keitumetse Segoai

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Book Review: The Right to Mourn


Masingita Masiya’s debut into the world of literature has come with truth, sincerity and raw emotion. He put aside what society says a man in pain can’t do and used his talent and skill as a writer to put together a compilation of what he felt when he suffered loss in his life. The book is beautifully written and hits the very pit of a heart that has ever had to gone through pain such as his. The book made me understand that black men really do cry and how real they are because of it. It taught me the process that goes behind a man in pain and how, just like women, we need to mourn as a form of expression, and healing.

“What makes a man?”, “That is a man” and “Absent” are my favourite poems in the book. “Absent” stood out the most. It speaks of the speech, language and voice one lacks when in hurt.

But for those who have no knowledge and understanding of what it means to lose a parent or have no connection with grief, the book could come across as depressing and dark. The author dwells on all that his father was and how much pain he is in. A reader would be left in a space that’s morbid and sad without ever seeing the laughter and joy that a life such as his fathers left behind. I believe the book could have ended in a direction that uplifts the soul and motivates one to enjoy that which a loved one leaves when he passes. The book could have transformed into something that inspires the value of life during loss. It had the potential to celebrate a life through memories of happiness, pictures of ecstasy and a happy legacy left behind.

Masiya’s debut into the world of words will not be forgotten. It is for the mature in spirit and worth buying. It’s sincere and focused, most importantly it is his truth. Look out for it at your nearest book store. Recommended Price: R79.99

Get hold of a copy it from the publishers: Lefoko La Kgosi Publishing

Contact Details: masingitam@lefokolakgosi.co.za and call 078 299 6856

Blessings,
Poppy Pops Vilakazi

 

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