Book 31 – Diane Awerbuck – Home Remedies

Books I've read

Home Remedies, Diane Awerbuck, fiction, south africa, women

Diane Awerbuck’s Facebook statuses are some of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Her short story, ‘Leatherman’, had me smiling (jealously) at its cleverness. She curated/edited/organized a collection of stories ‘the Ghost Eater and other stories’ that I have a short story in, and when I met her in person at the launch, she was funny. Like seriously funny.

So, I assumed that Home Remedies was going to be a comedy of some sort, or at least a comedic reflection on a life lived in Fish Hoek (unarguably one of the strangest places in Cape Town – it’s like a time capsule, but from not long enough ago). That folks, is why you should read the cover of books, and not buy them just because you want to be as funny as the writer. But still buy them (especially when they’re written by African women writers) because they will never ever disappoint you when they surprise you.

Home Remedies follows protagonist Joanna Renfield. She works in the Fish Hoek Valley Museum of Natural History and has just got a new boss (a struggle veteran with an identity crisis) because a skeleton in the museum has been linked to Saartjie Baartman. Hidden away somewhere in the museum are Baartman’s labia, and the boss wants them back. Joanna’s home life (with her husband and her small son) is something she has a sort of fickle ambivalence to. She so wanted it to be better than it was, but it just wasn’t better, so she keeps on keeping on feeling mildly disappointed with it all. Until one day a box with strange smell appears on the side of the road, and things begin to change.

The story speaks to the fragility of the peace created in small towns like Fish Hoek, and internally for most of us who are privileged enough to go about our lives free from violence in the home. It contrasts an ordinary life with extraordinary circumstances, highlights the violence of history and present, and presents the difficulty that comes when you make decisions about your life that made sense long ago, but don’t make any sense now. ‘Familiarity and contempt’ as Joanna describes it.

Awerbuck writes a tight sentence, and there are so many parts of the book that met my expectation of hilarity – like when Joanna’s asked if she’s found Jesus and replies that she didn’t know He was missing. She’s equally adept at crafting sentences that pierce through the veneer of the accepted situation and through this highlights the backdrop of fear that many of us live with.

One of the most magical and strange scenes in the book is the ‘toad moon’ scene. The imagery of the toads crossing the road with the protection of people shortly followed by a scene involving the extreme malice and violence of people was incredibly powerful.

So although this wasn’t the comedy that I had wrongly assumed it would be, it was a brilliant read, dense with history and present.

Book 30 – Short Story Day Africa – Terra Incognita

Books I've read, Short pieces

Terra Incognita, Africa, fiction, speculative fiction

I’ve enjoyed speculative fiction for ages (even as far back as when it used to be called sci-fi) so it was really cool to find an anthology of it crafted by African writers. Plus – what a beautiful cover. This project will be the bankrupting of me I swear – African fiction writers have the best covers.

Short Story Day Africa is the 21st of June, and this is what it’s all about:

“When Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, addressed the TED Conference in 2009, she spoke of the danger of the single story, a distorted, one-dimensional view of Africa that sees the continent only through a prism of war, disease, poverty, starvation and corruption. Short Story Day Africa has established a day, 21st June – the shortest day of the year – on which to celebrate the diversity of Africa’s voices and tell you who we really are; what we love; love to eat, read, write about. We want to bring you the scents on our street corners, the gossip from our neighbours, let you listen to strains of the music we dance to.

Short Story Day Africa brings together writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, teachers and school children from all over the globe to write, submit, read, workshop and discuss stories – and foster the love of reading and writing African fiction. Because we have something to tell the world. About us. In our own voices.”

The Short Story Day Africa 2014 anthology ‘Terra Incognita’ is packed full of stories that will creep you out, make you laugh, and worry about the parameters of your daily life. Of course, I only read the ones written by women this time around, but I look forward to getting to the rest when this project is done. I must say that my personal favourite was Dianne Awerbuck’s ‘Leatherman’ which led me to read her book ‘Home Remedies’ as my final fiction book in the project.

Get this collection, and support the call for funds for the next one here.

Book 29 – Zukiswa Wanner – London Cape Town Joburg

Books I've read

Zukiswa Wanner, London, Cape Town, Joburg, African women, writing

I play this new game when I go to book shops. If they don’t have an ‘Africana’ or ‘South African’ section, I look at covers, and if they interest me, pick them up hoping that they’ll be an African women writer. So few are.

I think that’s one of the things that has stood out for me during this whole project which is coming to an end at the end of this month – WE NEED MORE AFRICAN WOMEN WRITERS ON EVERY SHELF IN EVERY BOOK SHOP IN THE WORLD. I’ll save this rant though for my last post for this year of reading though, and get back to the extremely enjoyable London Cape Town Joburg. 

I loved the cover of this book, and that’s what caught my eye in the shop. Of course, I knew already that this was a South African fiction from the Kwela Logo so that meant I could pick it up without hesitation. It is Wanner’s fourth book which is impressive in itself.

I was also attracted to the story because I’ve lived in all three of those cities. I wanted to know – what about London, Cape Town, and Joburg? What do they mean to the characters in this book? Is setting enough to carry a story? And I suppose for any reader of any book, I wanted to know whether the writer/protagonist thought the same things I did about those places.

The story begins with the main characters – Germaine and Martin – in turmoil after their son has killed himself. Without knowing anything about the characters you immediately feel for them, the space between what used to be their ease with each other. The discomfort of loss and silence and a pain that is not able to be expressed in words. Told by both of them, you get the feeling that one is not telling the whole truth, but you are not sure who.

Then, you go back to the beginning with them. You meet them when they first met, and the strength of those chapters where they have abruptly and wholly fallen in love at (almost) first sight, and somehow you manage to convince yourself that it will all work out. That the start of the book that you just read will somehow not turn out to be true.

I loved the scenes where they first met – the excitement at meeting someone who you connect with so strongly, of the questioning whether that feeling could be real, and of being unsure about things. I loved it because it was so clear that they were both trying to rationalise love, as some form of self-protection, while at the same time just knowing that this was it. As they grow together, they become such a strong team that even two moves and various career changes can’t shake them.

Suddenly though, something does. And at the end you wonder, can they get back. Because for them a home is not a place. Home is each other.

Wanner manages to capture a place through both the micro and macro things that happen there. I loved her descriptions of driving through London to go out, the ease of taking transport around to see people, and the business of the place. With Cape Town I liked the contrast between her studio and the place they lived. She made Joburg sound exciting and enjoyable (confession, I hate Joburg so this was a big surprise for me).

This book is incredible. Read it if you want to feel something.

You can read an extract here

Book 28 – Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train

Books I've read

The Girl on the Train, paula hawkins

I haven’t read a book this gripping in ages. I started it on the way to work, on a train, on Monday morning. All day at work on Monday I thought about it, and then read it on the way home again. Tuesday morning, same deal. But Tuesday evening, I came home and got straight into bed to keep reading and finished the whole thing. I literally had to force myself to stop reading to eat dinner – not something that has happened many times in my life I will tell you. I was gripped from the very first chapter, and was thrilled right to the end.

The book follows the story of Rachel, who takes the train to London each morning. Frequently, she watches the same house and starts to form a picture of the couple that live there. She believes they’re madly in love, and to an extent idolizes their relationship or at least the relationship she’s created for them in her mind. She calls them Jess and Jason, and imagines careers and lives for them. To her, they’re the perfect couple. Then one day, she sees something strange happen on their balcony, and soon, Jess is missing.

Rachel drinks too much, even on the train on the way home from work. The only reason she has started watching Jess and Jason’s house in the first place is because her ex-husband (Tom) lives in a house down the road with his new wife (Anna) and child – the same house that she and he lived in when they were married. For a while we’re not sure why, but you know that she’s not always 100% together, whether it’s because of drink or heartache. But, she believes she has seen something important that might help find Jess, and so she gets more involved than she should.

The exciting thing is, you don’t only get to hear from Rachel, but also from Anna and the woman Rachel soon learns is not called Jess, but Megan. Through each of their narratives you begin to piece together a more sinister tale.

The pace of this story is incredible. You keep thinking you’re going to stop reading, but then the end of a chapter lures you to the next. It was as gripping as Gone Girl – no, more gripping than Gone Girl. You’re never quite sure whose story to believe. Read it, read it, read it!!

Paula Hawkins was born in Zimbabwe, and now lives in London.

Publication opportunity – Voices – An anthology of contemporary art and literature

Writing Opportunities

Voices– An anthology of contemporary art and literature

Voices is an anthology of contemporary art and literature interested in exploring every single place that makes up our world. It is a curious work, determined to reveal places and the lives they consist. The world is one global place, and is made up of smaller places called continents, which is made up of smaller places called countries made up of smaller cities and towns. Thus, we want to showcase the various places that make the world a global village.

‘Voices’ is as it is called is a conglomeration of voices from a place, be it a region, town, country or county. The voices are unique, stemming from various notions and interpretations of different people on this particular place. The anthology places its interest on places rather than ideas or abstract nouns. For us, places reveal people, places have a life of their own that we want to show the world.

Voices welcomes submissions of all kind and is opposed to stereotypical writing or art. We want something dynamic, uncommon and unusual that tells the true story of a place


The Ife Issue

Ile-Ife is an ancient Yoruba town in Southwestern Nigeria, Osun State. Also known as Ife, the town is renowned for its place in Yoruba folk myth as the traditional home of Yoruba civilization and doubles as a holy city of humankind. It boasts of art and culture and rich history that stands it out as one of the most desirable archaeological sites in Southwestern Nigeria.

We are accepting submissions from all over on the theme of ‘Ife’. We believe in the concept of borderlessness, that everyone can talk about every place, especially through art and literature, and we want to reach every one in every place with the stories and pictures and arts of Ife as well.

All submissions must explore, reveal and / or revolve around the place ‘Ife’. We accept compelling and atypical short fiction, non-fiction, book reviews, poetry, photography, art, and conversations.


All submissions must;

  • Be formatted in 1.5 line spacing
  • Be properly edited for errors (Works dotted with errors will have reduced chances of being selected for publication)
  • Be in font 12 Times New Roman
  • Contain a cover page stating name, mailing address, email address, phone number (with International dialing code, title of piece and word count.
  • Be sent as a Microsoft word doc or docx file attachment. Photography and art may be sent as jpeg file.
  • Be sent as attachments
  • Have email subject as FIRST NAME LAST NAME for example Akintunde Bello (where there are multiple submissions, the submissions should have a number after the first name and last name signifying what number of submission it is.)
  • Be sent along with a bio of no more than 50 words (in third person) in the body of the mail.



Submission window is from July 15th to September 15th. Upon receipt of your submission, you will receive a mail within 72 hours acknowledging receipt. If you do not receive a mail, please do not resend your work, simply send a query to



No responses are given about pieces being accepted for the anthology until the end of October. Only selected works will get responses by the end of October.



Multiple submissions are accepted, however, we aim at publishing as many views and as many names as possible with a wide as possible geographical spread.



Please note that we do not accept already work already published elsewhere in print or on the web. All submissions must be previously unpublished. We maintain first copyrights of all works submitted for the first six months after publication of the anthology after which the work may be used elsewhere.



Must be between 1,500 and 4,500 words

We accept any form from horror to surreal and magical. Any form is acceptable as long as it conforms to the theme and is compelling.

Multiple submissions must be sent as individual attachments with individual cover pages

Fiction submissions should be sent to


Must be between 1,500 and 2, 500 words.

Memoirs, essays, travel writings and all forms of creative non-fiction are accepted. News pieces, op-eds, articles, scholarly and academic papers and journalistic writings are not accepted. We want creative and compelling non-fiction.

Multiple submissions must be sent as individual attachments with individual cover pages.

Submissions should be sent to



We are accepting a small number of book reviews so submissions of book reviews must be pitched. Pitches may be no more than 400 words and be sent in the body of the mail to .Response time for pitches is 24 hours.

All book reviews must be sent to the fiction editor to



Each poem must be no more than two pages long. No more than three poems may be submitted in one document. Each poem title must be indicated above the poem individually as well as on the cover page.

All poetry submissions must be sent as attachment to



We are also open to digital art and photography. Must be high resolution jpeg files (300 dpi or higher) and not larger than 3MB. Each submission must be properly named and sent as an attachment to



We are not looking for bland interviews, we want active, participatory and lively conversations that inspire, intrigue, and even spark more conversations.

Conversations must not exceed 1, 500 words.

All conversations must be first pitched. Pitches must be no more than 400 words and should be sent to . Pitches will be responded to within 24 hours. Conversation submissions should be sent to

For more information visit