I’ve always enjoyed novels far more than short stories. I like to really sink my teeth into a characters and a narrative, and spend some time with them. Recently, however, I have found myself reading more short stories and poetry than usual. That could be because reading preferences are not static, and change over time. It could also be that it has just been too damn hot to do any one thing for too long. Reading in puddles of sweat on my couch is not exactly enjoyable, and my attention span seems to have taken a bit of a nose dive. So instead of my thoughts on a novel (of which I have only read three in 2016 thus far), here are three short stories I read recently that I’ve really liked. Minor spoilers (but not the endings).
Click the titles to open the story in a new page.
Two weeks into the year, and I have read two books and several short stories. Alas, the novels are not much to write home about – despite the fact that one was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012 – and most of the short stories have been mediocre. So instead, here is a selection of my favourite poetry from this week. Once again, I have managed to inadvertently make selections dealing with the same themes: race, racism, ethnicity, identity and belonging.
A few years ago, I was at a writers’ conference for women. We were from different disciplines and what brought us together was an awareness that academia – much like the rest of the world – was still an old boys’ club. At dinner one evening, at a table of about ten women, we talked about our work and interests. Inevitably, our conversation turned to sexual violence, and it became apparent very quickly that pretty much every woman at that table had survived childhood sexual violence. We came from different sub-Saharan countries, and also different class and race backgrounds, and yet we could all attest to the reality that we had grown up in a world where our bodies were public property, and that as children, the feeling of being physically unsafe – particularly from older men – was a daily experience.
Here is a a highly recommended personal account of a woman writing on this topic: Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence
This week, I found myself – somewhat inadvertently – reading short stories about motherhood. I committed the literary sin of judging a story by its title and/or accompanying picture, rather than its blurb, and had no idea what each story was about before reading them. How I managed to read the same story told several different ways, I’m not quite sure. Not only do they share the theme of motherhood, they all seem to deal with fear and discontent, although in very different ways. Here are three I read this week that I liked. No spoilers!
Click the titles to open the story in a new page.
For my favourite fiction books of the year, go here.
I have always enjoyed reading non-fiction, particularly history books, memoirs, biographies and socio-political analysis. These are my favourite five from 2015 (in no particular order).
Rape: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Gqola
Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend by Arianna Stassinopoulos
The Dressing Station by Jonathan Kaplan
Goodbye Sarajevo by Akta Reid and Hana Schofield
Seminary Boy by John Cornwell
For my favourite non-fiction books of 2015, go here.
At the start of this year, I aimed to read at least 60 books (a goal I reached in October). Looking back on my reading choices for 2015, I meandered through several genres, including science fiction, mysteries, political thrillers, historical fiction and contemporary fiction. In no particular order, here are five books I enjoyed reading in 2015. Don’t worry, no spoilers!
The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper
The Wide World Trilogy by Robert Goddard
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
The Granta Book of the African Short Story edited by Helon Habila
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
It’s coming up to Women’s Month in South Africa (August), where we get to listen to pointless speeches by officials promising that, this time, something will be done about sexism and misogyny in South Africa. We also get to watch private businesses try to make us forget that Women’s Day in South Africa commemorates the courage and resistance of women, particularly black women, and try to cash in by selling us more crap we don’t need while portraying Women’s Day as some sort of mixture of Mothers’ Day and Valentines’ Day.
Marie Claire decided to cash in early this year, and got 18 block-headed (but perhaps well-meaning) celebrities to sell some magazines and model some clothing by Dumond and Fabiani. Oh, and the celebrities were men. Their glorified photo shoot was sold thus:
“To honour women’s month in August, we invited 18 local celebrities to walk in our shoes – literally. As they learned to balance and strike a pose through their discomfort, the shoes became a representation of the experience of being a woman. And with each (sometimes painful) step, the men found a new understanding, appreciation and empathy for women.”
Oh, where does one start?