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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

“One of the most affordable return tickets to Uganda” – launch of Flame and Song by Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa

Flame and SongI don’t get to go to the launch of every book that Modjaji publishes. I was very glad to get to The Book Lounge launch of Philippa Namubeti Kabali-Kagwa’s memoir, Flame and Song, that we published in time for the Women’s Day Story Cafe at the Artscape. Last Tuesday was the “official” launch, and The Book Lounge was full of people from East Africa.

Malika Ndlovu framed the launch with her beautiful voice, almost like a praise singer. It set the tone for an evening of story, song, memories – it made it feel a little as though we were sitting around a fire – while Philippa was interviewed by two young women, Diana Mutoni and Sandrine Mpazayabo, friends of Philippa’s daughter, Faye.

They asked unflinching questions about Philippa’s life, the difficulties and challenges and the many griefs she has experienced. Philippa responded to all of the questions, however challenging with grace and warmth. Philippa also read from her beautiful memoir, both poetry and prose excerpts, I was left feeling filled up with song, poetry, and a sense of family and community and love.

For more photographs of the launch click here These photographs were taken by Neo Baepi.

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Extraordinary media coverage for I’m the Girl Who Was Raped – and book tour of Canada in the works


As the effects of rape culture worldwide are being seen and challenged, Michelle Hattingh’s book I’m the Girl Who Was Raped speaks to how being a victim of rape feels from the inside.

The media has been very interested in interviewing Michelle and reviewing her brave memoir. She was interviewed for The Star and The Argus by Julia Clark-Riddell, and by Louise Ferreira for Die Beeld and excerpts of I’m the Girl Who Was Raped have been featured in Marie Claire, You Magazine and Women24


While Michelle was in Joburg for the launch last week, she was interviewed on Radio Today and by Gareth Cliff on Cliff Central. She’s also been interviewed on Classic FM by Tamara LePine and on Cape Talk/702 by Pippa Hudson.

She’s appeared on Morning Live and has been invited to speak at schools, two universities and as the Guest Speaker at Wordfest at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July.

We’ve also received queries for her to go on a book tour to Canada, so we’re exploring Canadian publishers for I’m the Girl Who Was Raped, as this would make more sense than Modjaji Books trying to manage a Canadian book tour from Cape Town.

It is extraordinary what has happened with this powerful memoir in a short time, Michelle has clearly struck a nerve by writing so openly and honestly about her experiences. Let’s hope her book chips away at the rape culture that we live in.

I'm the Girl Who Was Raped

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Michelle Hattingh’s I’m the Girl Who Was Raped – a powerful, brave book


Michelle Hattingh was in Joburg this week launching her memoir, I’m the Girl Who Was Raped. Her book is receiving huge media attention, because she has had the courage to come forward and tell her story about being raped and what happened to her afterwards externally – but more especially what happened internally – how she dealt with what happened to her, how she felt, how she started to heal.

Michelle’s story is a no holds barred one, and her insight and writing is disrupting conversations and taken-for-granted views about rape and what it is, she is disturbing and disrupting rape culture, and none of it is easy.

Fiona Snyckers was in conversation with Michelle about the book at Love Books.

With Fiona’s permission, I’m sharing what she wrote on Facebook afterwards and her Twitter summary of the launch.

I’ve been present at panel discussions where white members of the audience have derailed a discussion on race and black pain by talking about how hard it is as a white person to know how to do the right thing.

What they did, in other words, was make the conversation about themselves and demand that the black panelists mop up their white tears.
Last night at Love Books we saw this in action again, but this time it was male tears that hijacked the agenda.

I was in conversation with Michelle Hattingh, author of the searing memoir I’M THE GIRL WHO WAS RAPED at her Johannesburg book launch. We’d had a long and difficult discussion about rape and rape culture, with many valuable contributions from women in the audience.

We were just wrapping things up when someone asked that a young man who’d had his hand up be given the chance to speak. Michelle agreed so I allowed the question.
He started off by saying that he thought we were all simplifying rape. (This is Mansplaining 101 – accusing a female interlocutor of not grasping the nuances.) Then he said that rape was “complicated” because there were always two people with their own different backgrounds that they brought to the encounter. (If this sounds like rape apology, that’s probably because it is.) He went on to talk about how difficult it is to be a man in this day and age and how hard it is to tell if a woman really is giving consent, especially if she is drunk.

And because we had decided that this was absolutely the last comment, that’s where the session ended, with mansplaining, rape apology and male tears having the last word. I’m still annoyed about it.

But Michelle’s talk was great and he didn’t have the power to take anything away from that. In the end, that’s all that matters.



Michelle was interviewed by Sue Grant-Marshall for Radio Today. You can listen to her interview here.

More photos of the launch are here. Thanks to Lourens Botha for these photographs.

Thanks, too, to Helen Holyoake of Helco Promotions for her brilliant work in drawing the attention of the media to I’m the Girl Who Was Raped.
I'm the Girl Who Was RapedBook details

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Book Launch: I’m the Girl Who Was Raped by Michelle Hattingh

I'm the Girl Who Was RapedMichelle HattinghModjaji Books and Love Books are pleased to invite you to the Johannesburg launch of I’m the Girl Who Was Raped, a memoir by Michelle Hattingh. Fiona Snyckers will introduce Michelle and talk with her about her book.

Emily Buchanan edited Michelle’s book and this is what she wrote about the book, published in Grocott’s Mail on the 6th May.

I’m the Girl Who Was Raped by Michelle Hattingh

Now and then you read a book that alters your life. It inspires you; it redefines you; and sometimes it reshapes your thinking in a way that changes the world around you. One such book for me was Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. Another is Michelle Hattingh’s I’m the Girl Who Was Raped.

I started working on Michelle’s manuscript as its editor. On my first reading I was surprised and excited, which seems inappropriate but it wasn’t: finally someone had the courage to write what it really was like to be raped, and to write it with such intensity, wit and pace that it read like a novel.

It was going to be a book that everyone needed to read, that would be the subject of conversation for months after it came out. More importantly, it would be a resource for those who had been raped, or feared being raped, or worried about their sons being accused of raping.

Michelle relates the story of her rape on a Muizenberg beach. She talks about how, earlier that same day, she’d presented her Psychology honours thesis on “Why Men Rape”, and how, despite her extensive research, she felt shamed and humiliated by her rape. When reporting to the police, she was further shamed and humiliated and blamed for “partying”, though she was sober.

She takes us through her next year and her battles with PTSD. She talks about being date-raped, a few years before, in a scene that is both awful and achingly funny, and draws a parallel between date-rape and stranger-rape that shows how like they are. I laughed and I cried and I re-evaluated how many of my own sexual encounters had been coercive.

Another point she makes is how the focus is always on women “staying safe”, as if that will prevent rape. When women don’t “stay safe” (I’m using the quotation marks ironically) society’s attitude is that those women bring rape upon themselves.

It’s completely illogical thinking. The statistics bear out how most women are raped in their own homes, wearing their most modest clothes and as sober as church mice. We hold onto the myth of “staying safe” because we feel it will protect us. What it does instead is takes the focus off the rapist — where it belongs — and puts the victim under its harsh, unjust, glaring spotlight.

As I talked to my friends and tried to tell them what I had learned from this book, almost all of them (feminists, lawyers, parliamentarians, doctors) directed the conversation to saying how girls really need to watch out when they go out, how it’s irresponsible not to be “careful”. It’s a message women have internalised so deeply that my friends truly couldn’t hear what I was saying. And it’s one more reason to buy them each a copy of I’m the Girl Who Was Raped: Michelle says it so much more convincingly than I can.

-Emily Buchanan published an excerpt of the book online, if you would like to read it, click here

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 01 June 2016
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg
  • Guest Speaker: Fiona Snyckers
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine and some light refreshments
  • RSVP: Love Books,, 011 726 7408

I'm the Girl Who Was Raped
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Book Launch: I’m the Girl Who Was Raped by Michelle Hattingh

I'm the Girl Who Was RapedMichelle HattinghThe Book Lounge and Modjaji Books are proud to invite you to the launch of a courageous book, I’m the Girl Who Was Raped written by Michelle Hattingh on April 28th. Michelle will be in conversation with writer and gender activist, Jen Thorpe.

Modjaji and The Book Lounge are donating R20 to Rape Crisis for each book bought at the launch.

That morning, Michelle presented her Psychology honours thesis on men’s perceptions of rape. She started her presentation like this, “A woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read …” On that same evening, she goes to a party to celebrate attaining her degree. She and a friend go to the beach; the friend has something she wants to discuss. They are both robbed, assaulted and raped. Within minutes of getting help, Michelle realises she’ll never be herself again. She’s now “the girl who was raped”.

This book is Michelle’s fight to be herself again. Of the taint she feels, despite the support and resources at her disposal as the loved child of a successful middle-class family. Of the fall-out to friendships, job, identity. It’s Michelle’s brave way of standing up for the women in South Africa who are raped every day.

Many people think middle class women are magically immune to rape or that if they are raped their easy access to the resources they need will be everything they need to recover completely. A book that discusses the cross cutting nature of the pain all women must feel when a man rapes them can only be welcomed in a time when communities across South Africa struggle with high rape rates. Kathleen Dey of Rape Crisis

More about Michelle
Michelle Hattingh was born in South Africa in 1988. She attended school in Port Elizabeth and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Stellenbosch University. She went on to do her Honours in Psychology at Cape Town University and now lives in Cape Town. Michelle works as senior online content producer at Marie Claire SA. Her work has been published in Elle SA, Marie Claire SA and the Mail & Guardian. I’m the Girl Who Was Raped is her first book.

I'm the Girl Who Was Raped
Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 28 April 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: The Book Lounge, Corner of Roeland and Buitenkant Streets, Cape Town CBD
  • Guest Speaker: Jen Thorpe
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of Leopard’s Leap wine and snacks
  • RSVP: The Book Lounge,, +27 21 462 2425

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Book Launch: Riding the Samoosa Express by Zaheera Jina and Others

Riding the Samoosa Express
Modjaji Books and Skoobs, Theatre of Books are delighted to invite you to the launch of Riding the Samoosa Express edited and compiled by Zaheera Jina and Hasina Asvat. We’re excited about this book, a collection of voices and stories which are not much in the mainstream of conversations in South Africa. This launch will be in Johannesburg on March 21st. Please RSVP to or call 011 513 2800.

Riding the Samoosa Express is a collection of life stories exploring issues of marriage, love, loss, family life, culture, religious beliefs, suburban life, local and international politics, freedom and education among other important issues faced by professional and well-educated Muslim women who have not been held back by global stereotypes.

‘The global ideology that prevails around the subject of Muslim women has been shaped by a description of women being voiceless, silent and oppressed. Other views have positioned Muslim women as either religious or secular and have ignored the complexity of Muslim women’s experiences.’ (Davids, 2003).

‘A book that is a bridge between paternalistic, misogynistic interpretations of Islam and the reality of a resilient, female Muslim identity, in contemporary South Africa.’ Shaida Kazie Ali, award-winning author of Not a Fairytale and Lessons in Husbandry

‘A wonderful portal into the multifaceted lives of South African Muslim women. The narratives invite the reader to enter into the precarious realm of the personal and interpersonal – a realm that demands critical attention.’ Associate Professor Nina Hoel, University of Oslo

Event Details

  • Date: Saturday, 21 March 2015
  • Time: 9:30 AM for 10:00 AM
  • Venue: Skoobs Theatre of Books, Montecasino, Shop 74, Montecasino, 1 Montecasino Boulevard, Fourways, Johannesburg, Gauteng
  • Guest SpeakersRobyn Clark Rajab and surprise guest speaker
  • RSVP: Skoobs Theatre of Books, 011 513 2800 or

Riding the Samoosa Express

Book details

  • Riding the Samoosa Express: Personal Narratives of Marriage and Beyond by Hasina Asvat, edited by Zaheera Jina
    EAN: 9781920590321
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Rosemary Smith’s Swimming with Cobras reviewed in Historia

Swimming with Cobras

Rosemary Smith’s memoir, Swimming with Cobras, in which she writes about her life in the Eastern Cape as a member of the Black Sash is reviewed favourably in the academic journal, Historia.

This is a captivating memoir. Smith has a strong personal connection to all the stories discussed throughout the book. She paints a vivid comparative picture, highlighting the contrast of life in the UK in the 1960s with her experiences in South Africa. Throughout the work, Smith successfully situates the Black Sash within the wider context of national political organisations, such as the African National Congress and the Progressive Party, as well as women’s roles in society, which she portrays as active, though limited. Smith also draws attention to other welfare organisations that she and the Black Sash were involved with, including GADRA, FEMSA and Christian Aid. The dominant themes in the book are those of violence, solidarity and family as they related to women under apartheid. The role of family units in particular is explored from Smith’s own close-knit family vis-a-vis the socio-economic impact on other families in rural areas who were broken up as a result of the political circumstances of the era. At times it is difficult to follow Smith’s recollections because they tend to be sporadic, but nonetheless, it is these memories that illustrate the unpredictability and fear which were part and parcel of life under apartheid for political activists. Although the work is a memoir written from a personal point of view, Smith has also consulted historical records ranging from those of the Black Sash to the volumes published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). These insights make this book a well-balanced and valuable read.

Monica G. Fernandes
Brunel University

To read the whole review click here

Swimming with Cobras

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FIVE Modjaji titles shortlisted for 2014 SALA Awards

Makhosazana XabaC A Davids, author of The Blacks of Cape TownReneilwe Malatji Toni Strasburg giving Rusty Bernstein Memorial lectureThandi SliepenWe couldn’t be more thrilled with this year’s SALA Award Nominees’ List. We’ve got FIVE titles listed in four categories. As a small press, this is extraordinary good news for us. In past years we have had one or two nominees at most. Although our authors have gone on to win SALA Awards, so we are holding thumbs for this year. Some of our most illustrious past winners are Yewande Omotoso for Bom Boy and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers for The Everyday Wife. Yewande’s Bom Boy went on to be shortlisted for the first Etisalat Prize and Phillippa was made this year’s Commonwealth Poet!

This year we have two authors who are shortlisted for the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award, Makhosazana Xaba’s collection of stories, Running & Other Stories is on the list. AND the title story in the collection was selected as one of the 20 in Twenty best stories in English published since 1994. Xaba’s whole collection is being read on SAFM in their reading slot at 11.45 each weekday. And Khosi as she is known to her friends and fans, has also been nominated for a Mbokodo Award.

Reneilwe Malatji’s collection of stories, Love Interrupted, is also in the running for the Nadine Gordimer award. AND WE heard in the past weeks, that this collection has won the 2014 Aidoo-Snyder Award.

Toni Strasburg’s memoir about her life as a documentary film-maker in the front-line states during the apartheid years Fractured Lives is shortlisted in the Creative Non-Fiction category. CA Davids’ debut novel, The Blacks of Cape Town has been nominated in the First Time Published Author category. Davids was at the Edinburgh Festival and the Open Book Festival in the past few months. And last but not least, Thandi Sliepen has been shortlisted in the Poetry category for her debut collection, The Turtle Dove Told Me.

Here is the full list of nominees for these awards. We are delighted to see that another small, independent publisher, Dye Hard Press has three titles short-listed. Viva! Small publishers, viva!

Congratulations to all nominees and their publishers.


Poetry Award

Themba Patrick Magaisa, Mihloti ya Tingana (Xitsonga, published by TP Magaisa)
Khulile Nxumalo, Fhedzi (English, Dye Hard Press)
Kobus Moolman, Left Over (English, Dye Hard Press)
Thandi Sliepen, The Turtle Dove Told Me (English, Modjaji Books)

Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award

Gary Cummiskey, Off-ramp (English, Dye Hard Press)
Makhosazana Xaba, Running and Other Stories (English, Modjaji books)
Reneilwe Malatji, Love Interrupted (English, Modjaji Books)

Liesl Jobson, Ride the Tortoise (English, Jacana Media)

K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award (For Young Writers)

Marli Roode, Call it Dog (English, Penguin Books)
Jason Staggie, Risk (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Jamala Safari, The Great Agony and Pure laughter of the Gods (English, Umuzi Publishing)

Creative Non-Fiction Award

Sihle Khumalo, Almost Sleeping My Way to Timbuktu (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Toni Strasburg, Fractured Lives (English, Modjaji Books)

First-time Published Author Award

Claire Robertson, The Spiral House (English, Umuzi Publishers)
Carol-Ann Davids, The Blacks of Cape Town (English, Modjaji Books)
James Siddall, Dystopia (English, Jacana Media)

Lifetime Achievement Literary Award

Nuruddin Farah
Njabulo Ndebele

Literary Translators Award

Nhlanhla Maake, Malefane (Sesotho/English, Ekaam Books)

The Blacks of Cape Town

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Love Interrupted

The Turtle Dove Told Me


Fractured Lives

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Reclaiming the L-Word reviewed in Agenda

Wonderful to see that a book published in 2011 is still being reviewed. Here’s a review in Agenda of Reclaiming the L-Word edited by Alleyn Diesel.

Diesel’s effort in garnering the writing together and the creative expression that the collection includes deserves credit. She has brought together the untold stories or at least those only told over dining room tables, in therapist’s chairs and other safe spaces for gay women. This book, however, is not only for lesbians, those thinking that they might be, or those that are just ‘curious’. It is a book for families and friends of gay women and anyone who loves a good South African story (although some are more readable as ‘good stories’ than others). It is an important textual work for our time, awakening the soul to ‘ordinary lives’ in an extraordinary country.

Reclaiming the L-Word

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Frankfurt revisited

I’ve had the wonderful good fortune of going to and being part of the Frankfurt Book Fair three times. This year was the first time as a trade visitor and ‘on my own’. I was lucky enough to be on the Invitation Programme in 2011 and 2012. I remember how daunting and overwhelming the Fair was, especially the first time. I almost had a panic attack when I went to my first appointment in Hall 8, where the publishers from the English-speaking world converge. This year I found the Fair familiar, easy to navigate.

Frankfurt is different for everyone who goes there. Each person has a particular reason for being there and a particular place in world of books and publishing. The most important thing is developing relationships and building on them. If you are a bookish person, it is an absolute thrill to meet like-minded folk from all parts of the world. I love the “United Nations of Publishing” atmosphere, especially in Halls 5 and 6 where most of the international publishers are based. I shared accommodation with friends I made in the 2012 Invitation Programme, publishers from Brazil and Croatia.

At first I was sorry not to have a stand. But as I got comfortable with being a trade visitor in some ways it was better. I was lucky to have the Invitation Programme in Hall 5.0 as a home base for storage and warm welcomes from the organisers, Corry von Mayenburg and Doris Oberländer made me feel at home. I was also delighted to see Benoit Knox from Pretoria on the invitation Programme in Hall 5.0, and to reconnect with friends I’d made in the previous two years. In the end it was valuable for me to attend meetings, seminars and talks without worrying about my stand.

Corry von Mayenburg and Gustavo Faraon at the party on the boat on Monday evening

The Frankfurter Hof

A few highlights for me: I met Mieke Ziervogel from Pereine Press in London at the Frankfurter Hof on Tuesday evening before the Fair started. She publishes only three books a year, all novellas translated into English. These titles are carefully curated each year, and sold individually, but also as a set. She uses all kinds of innovative marketing and sales approaches, including salons at her home, a pop-up shop and a UK tour. I was thrilled to meet her, and although I’ve been following her for a couple of years on Twitter, a mutual Twitter follower introduced her to me, and she suggested we meet in Frankfurt. I was also quite awed at the idea of actually setting foot in the Frankfurter Hof, where all the important publishers meet after the Fair. As a publisher from a tiny press in South Africa, I feel quite marginal to the main goings-on in Frankfurt, so I set off to the Frankfurter Hof on Tuesday evening with some trepidation. Apart from one glass of wine costing 12 Euros, it was a delightful evening, and not nearly as intimidating as I expected it to be.

On Thursday evening, I was invited to three parties all happening at the same time at 5.00, there was the Whisky party of US Small Presses in Hall 8, the Australian Party also in Hall 8 and the LGBTI party in Hall 4. I went to the Small Press party first to say hello and thank Jeffrey Leppendorf for assisting me with sharing information about the Small Publishers Catalogue: Africa, 2013 with the publishers who are part of CLMP or The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. Then I went to the LGBTI party in Hall 4. Jim Baker fom Quer Verlag in Berlin was incredibly generous and introduced me to people he thought might be interested in Queer Africa (MaThoko’s Books) and Reclaiming the L-Word. I was lucky to meet the man who runs the biggest and best gay bookshop in Europe, and also a wonderful resourceful writer/small press publisher based in Spain, who has proved to be a fund of information and knowledge and shared resources.

I was blown away by the possibilities of digital printing at a semiar I attended called “The Beauty of the Book”. My mind was racing and I looked forward to sharing my ideas with colleagues back home.

Every conversation you have with anyone in Frankfurt has the potential to offer up an insight, a new perspective an idea of how to do things differently or better. I was also able to ask Benoit and Bibi Bakare Yusuf of Cassava Republic Press (also on the Invitation Programme and my friend) to stock and sell the African Small Publishers’ Catalogue, 2013 on their stands. I also met new publishers to feature in the next edition of the catalogue.

Other highlights for me were visiting the best designed books exhibition in Hall 4.0 and visiting the Brazilian exhibition, as Guest of Honour, the dinner and party on the boat on the Monday night, meeting people from the Alliance of Independent publishers and going to their party, some sightseeing around Frankfurt. For more pictures on the Modjaji Books Facebook page click here

A tip for those going to Frankfurt for the first time, get a German sim card with unlimited wifi. Last year having my phone on roaming cost me over R4000! An unpleasant bill at the end of November.

Queer Africa

Reclaiming the L-Word
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