The past couple of months, like many of those that preceded them, have seen the publication of some really good books exploring the recent goings-on of this country and exploring the many things that go into constructing the South African Identity. For humorous, thoughtful, encouraging and illuminating cross-sections of SA at the very end of this decade, have at look at these:
Dr T: A Guide to Sexual Health and Pleasure by Tlaleng Mofokeng
Isn’t it nice when a nice book arrives on the scene? At a time when things are just so uncertain and hard etc. etc… you know the drill. My point is, you can expose as much unpleasantness as you like and delve into as many modern horrors as might emerge on a daily basis (these are things that need doing after all), but you can also write a book about the sexier aspects of being a person out there in the world. Activist and media personality Tlaleng Mofokeng has here provided an inclusive health guide that seeks to empower and inform regardless of sexual and gender identities – a book about celebrating and respecting black women’s bodies, about the medical and anatomical stuff we all need to know, and about the pleasure that is to be had (and enhanced) by understanding relationships, communication… and a kink or two (or five or six). There’s also a section on the LGBTQA community and the rights of sex workers. A lot of expertise, a lot of positivity and candour. Maybe let’s have some of that for a bit.
Blessed by Bosasa: Inside Gavin Watson’s State Capture Cult by Adriaan Basson
State capture, tenders, shady dealings, threats, intimidation, greed… corruption and avarice hardly show signs of slowing down, do they? In all of these tales there is something to be learned, and it is books like this that really get down into the mechanics, and the history, of a rotten situation-cum-system. Each new glimpse is a shadow expelled.
Adriaan Basson has spent more than a dozen years of his career as a journalist doggedly hounding the Bosasa story… and not without having to weather his share of threats and lawsuits. This is the gripping story of the felonious, shady company that played Zuma’s government like its very own puppet show – the in-depth investigation of a nefarious force that has existed since before Zuma and the Guptas, of rampant grasping, of appalling wealth and insidious malfeasance. Substantial, deftly assembled, riveting.
Black Tax by Niq Mhlongo
“…no one is successful until their entire family is successful,” Nkateko Masinga brilliantly avers in this extremely timely compilation.
“Black Tax” is not a comfortable term. Neither is it a comfortable thing for many. But, at a time when the middle class is being steadily eroded and the wealth gap yawns ever wider, it is something that wants discussing. With Black Tax: Burden or Ubuntu? Mhlongo and 25 other gifted writers have united to paint an essential portrait of the daily lives of black South African families. It’s a revealing socioeconomic snapshot of sorrows and frustrations felt across the country that succeeds as a major examination of a complex issue, and it’s also a terrific compendium of writing talent: established literary personalities, voices from the business world and the newest generation of SA all contribute to this excellent anthology of perception and experience. If you’re keen to keep up with the issues of the day, this is a book you’ll want to get your hands on.
Coconut Kelz’ Guide to Surviving this Shithole by Lesego Tlhabi
You know what? Sometimes things need a good ribbing now and then. With new issues and concerns come new funnies, when we’re lucky. With her over-the-top, white-woman-stuck-in-a-black-woman’s-body character Coconut Kelz, comedian Lesego Thlabi is here to poke fun at all the things that we tend to take a little too seriously.
Political satire is going to get people’s backs up now and then, but often it’s also just the thing to celebrate and put into perspective the precious absurdities, irrational passions and pervasive peccadilloes that go into making up a country, or a people, or, you know, the world. You have to be able to laugh at yourself first, right? Kelz has all the best tips on how to achieve the perfect white beauty standards, how to land a white guy, keeping your accent crisp and proper with Woolies’ water (sparkling strawberry is preferred), and how to avoid crossing the “Line of Caucus” as all costs. Her “guide” is a hilarious look at race and class in South Africa that doesn’t shy from turning the parody dial up to 11, annoying a good few people and inspiring many a defiantly tickled snort along the way.
Also, go find her on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab6MtHnK9MA
Chef Nti: My Modern African Kitchen by Nthabiseng Ramaboa (Chef Nti)
Remember back at the top of this list, when I said that nice books are nice? Well, what’s nicer than gorgeous recipes wrapped in a gorgeous cover complemented by gorgeous illustrations and gorgeous thoughts? Beg pardon – I can’t pretend to be a food writer any more than I can pretend to not love the word gorgeous. Anywho, for those of you who don’t know, Chef Nti is on a bit of a mission to celebrate the food that South Africans grew up on, and to revitalise these famous flavours in a creative new way, drawing inspiration and paying tribute in equal generous measure. Amasi Cheesecake, Stir-Fried Crispy Pap, Phutu Tabbouleh. Yep. Actually, just get this book. Like, now. I also have to specially mention that it is a Quivertree publication, and Quivertree books are among the most beautiful books you could ever hope to own. Honestly, they even smell better.
There you have it. Some profound thought, some seriousness, some fun, some positivity, some concern and some beauty… probably, you’ll just have to go and get all five of them. Happy reading!