What We Lose: A Striking Novel About Filial Grief

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2017-11-27 02:58Z by Steven

What We Lose: A Striking Novel About Filial Grief

The Atlantic
2017-08-01

Amy Weiss-Meyer, Associate Editor


Zinzi Clemmons (Nina Subin)

Zinzi Clemmons’s debut tangles with familiar questions, using a propulsive experimentalism in lieu of linear narrative.

When Zinzi Clemmons was a graduate student at Columbia, at work on her MFA, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Clemmons had been writing a novel with a more or less linear narrative structure. She moved back home to Philadelphia and kept writing, but differently now, taking notes and collecting fragments of text as she cared for her mother. “The only time and energy I could muster resulted in that very short form,” she said recently. “I just ended up keeping those pieces and stitching them together, and a fictional narrative arose.” The novel she had been working on no longer felt worth her while; she’d been trying to use it, she said, to “avoid what was going on with my mom.”

The new novel that emerged, What We Lose, is a startling, poignant debut, released to no shortage of fanfare (Vogue called it “the debut novel of the year”). It tells a story based loosely on the author’s own. The protagonist is Thandi, who, like Clemmons herself, is the daughter of a “coloured” South African mother and an African American father. Thandi, like Clemmons, was raised in a wealthy, mostly white suburb of Philadelphia. Thandi’s self-proclaimed status as a “strange in-betweener”—she has “light skin and foreign roots,” and feels neither fully black American nor fully African—is a defining preoccupation of her young adulthood. Her relationship with her mother is loving but difficult. And in the wake of her death, as Thandi unexpectedly confronts the possibility of becoming a parent herself, she struggles to come to terms with what her mother’s life was, and what hers should be…

Read the entire article here.

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What We Lose, A Novel

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Novels, South Africa, United States on 2017-11-27 02:13Z by Steven

What We Lose, A Novel

Viking (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2017-07-11
224 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0735221710
Paperback ISBN: 978-0008245948

Zinzi Clemmons

From an author of rare, haunting power, a stunning novel about a young African-American woman coming of age—a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, family, and country

Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love.

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction.

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Steeped in Heritage: The Racial Politics of South African Rooibos Tea

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, South Africa on 2017-11-09 03:16Z by Steven

Steeped in Heritage: The Racial Politics of South African Rooibos Tea

Duke University Press
2017-10-27
272 pages
3 illustrations
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8223-6993-6
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-6993-6

Sarah Ives, Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer
Stanford University

South African rooibos tea is a commodity of contrasts. Renowned for its healing properties, the rooibos plant grows in a region defined by the violence of poverty, dispossession, and racism. And while rooibos is hailed as an ecologically indigenous commodity, it is farmed by people who struggle to express “authentic” belonging to the land: Afrikaners who espouse a “white” African indigeneity and “coloureds,” who are characterized either as the mixed-race progeny of “extinct” Bushmen or as possessing a false identity, indigenous to nowhere. In Steeped in Heritage Sarah Ives explores how these groups advance alternate claims of indigeneity based on the cultural ownership of an indigenous plant. This heritage-based struggle over rooibos shows how communities negotiate landscapes marked by racial dispossession within an ecosystem imperiled by climate change and precarious social relations in the post-apartheid era.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction. The “Rooibos Revolution”
  • 1. Cultivating Indigeneity
  • 2. Farming the Bush
  • 3. Endemic Plants and Invasive People
  • 4. Rumor, Conspiracy, and the Politics of Narration
  • 5. Precarious Landscapes
  • Conclusion. “Although There Is No Place Called Rooibos”
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
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ENCORE | Trevor Noah on growing up mixed race in South Africa, ‘a product of my parents’ crime’

Posted in Africa, Audio, Autobiography, Canada, Interviews, Media Archive, South Africa on 2017-07-05 18:45Z by Steven

ENCORE | Trevor Noah on growing up mixed race in South Africa, ‘a product of my parents’ crime’

The Current
CBC Radio
2017-07-05

Anna Maria Tremonti, Host


‘Fundamentally, myself, my mother and my dad were considered different types of citizens under the law,’ says The Daily [Show] Host Trevor Host on living in a mixed race family in South Africa. (Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

Trevor Noah began his career as a successful stand-up comedian in South Africa. The Daily Show host has travelled a long way since then, but his humour is as biting as ever.

He brings that humour — along with candour — in Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, a new book about growing up mixed race in South Africa, facing prejudice and learning about survival and a mother’s love.

Noah was born in 1984 to a white father and a black mother during apartheid, which meant his family initially had to hide the truth from the outside world. He was largely kept indoors during the early years of his life, and when he did venture into public with his mother they had to pretend she was his caretaker. His father could never be seen with them in public…

Listen to the conversation (00:24:18) here. Read the transcript here.

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Playing in the Light: A Novel

Posted in Africa, Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, South Africa on 2017-05-05 16:04Z by Steven

Playing in the Light: A Novel

The New Press
November 2007
224 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-59558-221-8

Zoë Wicomb, Emeritus Professor
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom

Set in a beautifully rendered 1990s Cape Town, Zoë Wicomb’s celebrated novel revolves around Marion Campbell, who runs a travel agency but hates traveling, and who, in post-apartheid society, must negotiate the complexities of a knotty relationship with Brenda, her first black employee. As Alison McCulloch noted in the New York Times, “Wicomb deftly explores the ghastly soup of racism in all its unglory—denial, tradition, habit, stupidity, fear—and manages to do so without moralizing or becoming formulaic.”

Caught in the narrow world of private interests and self-advancement, Marion eschews national politics until the Truth and Reconciliation Commission throws up information that brings into question not only her family’s past but her identity and her rightful place in contemporary South African society. “Stylistically nuanced and psychologically astute” (Kirkus), Playing in the Light is as powerful in its depiction of Marion’s personal journey as it is in its depiction of South Africa’s bizarre, brutal history.

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Rachel Dolezal: why ignoring the painful past of “passing” is indefensible

Posted in Africa, Articles, Media Archive, Passing, South Africa, United States on 2017-05-05 13:05Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal: why ignoring the painful past of “passing” is indefensible

The Conversation
2017-05-04

Londiwe H. Gamedze, Tutor, MA student
University of Cape Town


Civil rights advocate Rachel Dolezal has been accused of falsely claiming she is African-American. Stephanie Keith/Reuters

In 2015, American Rachel Dolezal captured the public imagination when the media discovered that she was white and had been passing as black for nearly a decade.

Dolezal, who has had white ancestors for over three centuries, checked boxes like “black” and “African-American” on application forms, darkened her skin, and began to wear her hair in African-American styles. She lied about her past and family, and attempted to sue her alma mater, historically black Howard University for reverse racism.

“Black” Dolezal was a lecturer in Africana studies and president of her local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People NAACP.

She recently visited South Africa to discuss non-racialism, but received resistance against her self-identification as “trans-black” and her claim to an authentic, internal black identity. This isn’t surprising given the brutality of the country’s racial past.

Read the entire article here.

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The Marxist Aspect in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

Posted in Africa, Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa on 2017-03-14 17:03Z by Steven

The Marxist Aspect in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature
Volume 5, Number 7 (2016)
pages 101-109

Mohamed Fathi Helaly
College of Arts and Science
Prince Sattam Bin Abdul-Aziz University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

South Africa is one country where racial discrimination was widespread. Like the rest of the color-skinned people, colored writers in South Africa are marginalized and denied the right to express their experiences of living in a society riddled with racial inequality and oppression. Marxism is a school of thought that is concerned about the conflict between the dominant powerful classes and the oppressed ones in any given society. According to Marxism, literary texts are viewed as material that can be interpreted within historical contexts. South Africa is a country where the Apartheid System has been dominant. It is a country that has people of different ethnicity: the White, the Black and the Colored who are known as people of mixed race or hybrid. In South Africa colored people are doubly oppressed by their community, as they belong neither to the Black nor to the White. The colored people are marginalized and demeaned to a very degraded status by their society. Bessie Head is a South African female writer who is concerned about the clash between the different classes in her society. In this study the researcher wants to explore the class-struggle of women in general and the hybrid females in particular under the Apartheid System from a Marxist point of view. As a South-African female writer, Head is concerned about the struggle for power between the White and The Black, on the one hand, and between the hybrids on the other. A Question of Power can be seen as an indictment of the governing system in South Africa. It is a system that governs people not as ordinary human beings but according to the color of their skin. It is an autobiographical novel that tells the story of Elizabeth as a women living under the Apartheid System. Elizabeth, the fictional character of Bessie Head, has to suffer greatly as a woman but her suffering as a hybrid is even greater. On the one hand, she is socially marginalized as a female living in a patriarchal society. On the other hand, she is also culturally colonized as an individual living in a society where racial discrimination is prevailing. On account of what is mentioned so far Elizabeth is suffering from an identity crisis.

Read the entire article here.

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A True Story of Love, Race and Royalty Gets Crammed Into A United Kingdom

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa, United Kingdom on 2017-02-11 19:57Z by Steven

A True Story of Love, Race and Royalty Gets Crammed Into A United Kingdom

LA Weekly
2017-02-06

April Wolfe, Lead Film Critic


Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

In director Amma Asante’s epic political romance A United Kingdom, David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike star as Seretse and Ruth Khama, the interracial royal couple who stunned the world when they fought to rule the country that would become the Republic of Botswana. The story’s a wildly interesting history lesson on African poverty, the rise of apartheid in the late 1940s and Britain’s passive role in separating Botswana’s blacks from whites. But here all that complexity plays more Disney than drama, with a script from Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky) that turns love into a montage and politics into a trite cartoon of good vs. evil.

The couple lindy-hops through courtship and right into an engagement in the early scenes, which are set to an American jazz soundtrack. They first lock eyes at a dance in London, where he’s a law student and she’s an office worker. In real life, the two met secretly for a year before Seretse even got the nerve to ask, “Do you think you could love me?” But the script ramming right through the early romance and into the marriage leaves so many open questions about the characters’ love; as portrayed in the film, they barely know one another when Ruth decides she’s going to move to Africa to be Seretse’s queen.

Against the wishes of their families — and the British and South African governments — Seretse and Ruth marry and travel to Bechuanaland so that he can ascend the throne and use his education to help his people. Soon after their arrival comes one of the film’s most poignant moments: Seretse’s aunt Ella (Abena Ayivor), who’s the current queen, drills right into the thin white woman before her to ask if Ruth knows what it would mean to be a mother to the nation and its predominantly black citizens. Ella has a good point: At a time when white people are swarming into Bechuanaland to turn black citizens into servants, how good an idea is a white queen? Later, Ruth sits in her room, practicing British queen skills such as waving and smiling, while the tribe’s women break their backs outside to get food to their families. But A United Kingdom doesn’t fully explore this cultural distance; the film’s structure requires that Ruth be quickly accepted into the tribe, so the story can move on to Britain’s treachery…

Read the entire article here.

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Trevor Noah, Colorism and The Unexpected Role He Plays In Expanding the Divide

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2017-02-11 03:27Z by Steven

Trevor Noah, Colorism and The Unexpected Role He Plays In Expanding the Divide

Atlanta Black Star
2017-02-05

Jared Ball, Professor of Communication Studies
Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

“He’s out to neutralize, not to awaken.” – Willa Paskin

The leadership of our School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University has encouraged that professors like myself find ways this semester to incorporate into our work the new book Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Noah is the South African-born, biracial, Colored comedian and host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Copies have been distributed to students and faculty alike and I anticipate there being a flurry of engagement for courses in media studies as Noah’s book has plenty to offer.

Immediately we can start with critiques of false balance and Western politicized notions of objectivity, both of which were in play during Noah’s recent extended exchange with the aggressive right wing commentator Tomi Lahren. Many know of Noah’s nightly television work and it appears many more know him now after the straw woman performed her role in enhancing Noah’s credibility and right in time to coincide nicely with his book’s launch. What liberal aspirant to the throne of legitimacy wouldn’t want her as an interlocutor? Even in the silly film Pop Star Conner Friel (Andy Samberg) made sure his entourage consisted of a “perspective adjuster” whose sole function was to make the star look better by comparison. Muhammad Ali’s legend wasn’t born by his fights with Henry Cooper and Brian London. It were the fights with Liston, Frazier, Foreman and the federal government that told us he was the greatest.

We can also as a class ask, what is happening semiotically with the book’s cover? It read to me from the first like the perfect symbolic display of Noah’s entire political function as celebrity.  Noah’s beige face, askew, askance even – especially – with that grin, hand touching his head, painted on a tattered township wall, imposing, top-down upon a faceless Black African woman, almost saying, in an aloof, twisted version of the Old Spice commercial, “aww-shucks, look at me. Now look at you. Now look at me again. Now look at you. And back to me. I’ve made it and you can to? Never mind that. Look at me!” Its reminiscent of any billboard falsely advertising an exclusive lifestyle of which most onlookers can only dream…

Read the entire article here.

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Race, Identity and the Making of Hashim Amla

Posted in Africa, Articles, Media Archive, South Africa on 2017-01-13 02:15Z by Steven

Race, Identity and the Making of Hashim Amla

Africa Is A Country
2013-07-20

Niren Tolsi

Hashim Amla has arrived. His back-lift to gully now appears the sort of lazy flourish that bored twelve-year-olds develop because they are staggeringly superior to their opposition, rather than the defect that presumed he wouldn’t cut it at international level early on in his career. That twirl of a back-lift is now brought down to defend, flick, drive and reduce Test bowlers into looking like schoolboys. He is silky and elegant in a manner that compelled Richie Benaud, the former Australian captain–and one of the most knowledgeable, and least myopic, of that country’s commentators–-to describe him as “an artist in a team of artisans” during a solid first tour Down Under in 2008.

At the time of writing (after the Wanderers Test match against Pakistan in early February) he was the International Cricket Council’s world number one ranked Test batsman. En-route to overtaking Australian captain Michael Clarke to assume that apex he had struck an unbeaten 311 against England at The Oval–becoming the first South African to score a triple-ton and the 22nd person in the history of Test cricket to do so.

His batting is eye-catching. As is the shaggy square beard that marks him out as a devout Muslim in a team that has traditionally traded on what Jesus would do, Castle Lager, jock-of-the-establishment-school-tie posturing and a gritty approach to the game that melded the conservative, dour and tragic elements that reside inside the Afrikaner and the Rooi-neck. If Jacques Kallis, the darling of the South African (white) cricketing media corps, represents the establishment with his hair implants, demeanor as wooden as his “big bat” and tweets calling for the return of the death penalty, then Amla, all leg-side flicks as luxurious as his beard, imperious punches off the back-foot and mere physical manifestation represents its anathema–almost. In the chaotic, overlapping and contradictory world of South African identity politics even that would be too reductionist. Too simple…

Read the entire article here.

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