Life and Death

baby feet, heart, love

OH BABY!

Little one,
From the womb whence you came,
Only to be discarded on the side of the road.
Oh, baby!
Wrapped in plastic,
Near the stench of a filthy rubbish bin.
Accompanied not by warm hands and inviting smiles,
Instead, you’re surrounded by
Rotten food and hungry wolves.


Oh, baby!
Your cries drown out the screams
As she forces you out,
Two months premature.
She doesn’t want to remember
the day that you were created
in a night of heated passion.
Your sweet face and soft skin
Make her skin crawl.


Oh, baby!
She blames you for the loss of his love
And punishes you,
Gets rid of you,
Like yesterday’s trash.
A one night stand,
Mistaken for a love of a lifetime,
Resulting in 9 months of responsibility.
A lifetime responsibility.


Oh, baby!
Your little body; hands and feet,
Blue in the cold night,
Unaware of the love that awaits you
From a barren mother who craves you
Who wishes for you,
Prays for you.
Your sweet scent,
Your ten fingers and
Ten toes.
Oh, sweetheart
Covered in blood,
The only tie to your previous life,
Is the cord that binds itself around your tiny
Neck.


Oh, baby!
Please hold on!
Someone is coming.
Oh, baby!
You are wanted
and needed.
You are a source of joy and laughter.
Your precious life is a gift from the heavens.
Oh, baby!
Please hold on!
That yellowed grass patch might be your beginning
But
It is certainly not your end.



Vanessa Govender, author, writer

WE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY!

A MOMENT TO CHANGE A LIFE

There comes a moment in a woman’s life, it comes quietly and without even knowing it is the time or her time she will remember her voice. She will reclaim her voice and she will banish all societal, cultural, and perhaps even self-inflicted shackles, which bound and gag her into living a life half lived and burying her truth, to make the world around her more comfortable with the woman she is.


My moment, my time, it came. it took more than a decade, but it came. The truth and pain and the absolute undoing of who and what I was, bided its time in the deepest parts of me, seemingly gone, seemingly forgotten, it even had me fooled and lulled into believing I was living my most authentic self. That I had erased that young girl, everything her body and soul and brain endured. I convinced myself it was a thing of the past. Plus, I reasoned, what would be the point! It’s over and done. I am okay and alive and thriving. I am living as I have never lived before. I lived so large that I dwarfed the girl and the victim that resided within me into virtual nothingness.
Or so I thought.

But you see trauma, both physical and emotional is something that can never be forgotten or erased. It is ingrained in the very pores of your skin; every fibre of your being. In your every cell, the memory of trauma not just lingers, it festers, it rots, it poisons, and it kills. And you won’t even know it. Those feelings of helplessness, of utter and complete hopelessness, the tears that ebb and flow with the slightest provocation, the physical pain that you feel in your chest, the waking up to face a new day with such rage inside your heart, then dissolving into a dark abyss that beckons for you to come to lay there and never leave. The voice that cajoles inside your head, that to stop breathing, to stop living would be the ultimate high, the only way to end this inexplicable thing that you are feeling.

vanessa govender, writer, author
Author, Vanessa Govender

LOSING CONTROL

And it was inexplicable to me for a long time. I had a great job. As one of a few Indian female television news reporters on a national television station at the time between 2005 and 2012, (ETV now ENCA) my face was a recognisable one, my name a respected one (at least that’s the feedback I got) I drove a beautiful car, I lived a good life, I had my pick of intelligent, successful, beautiful men. I partied hard, I worked even harder. Man, my life was good. Better than good. I made sure I was seen and heard. I made sure I was felt. I made sure I was in control.

I knew just how to vanquish and remain willfully vulnerable to keep men and women around me comfortable in my presence. Knowing how to dominate and yet remain docile enough to ensure men and women around me would never know who and what I was, was something I did well. So clever and so in control; so why would someone like me feel I was constantly being held in a stranglehold by emotions and feelings of complete and utter worthlessness and desolateness?

Vanessa during her time as a reporter

LIVING WITH TRAUMA AND PAIN


Trauma travels. Pain sits patiently. These things cannot and should not ever be denied. Not to oneself and not to others and certainly not to the person or people who have inflicted it. Trauma waits. Pain travels. Through time, through all the spaces and roles you live and fulfill, these things cannot and will not be denied or doused. Because anything suppressed must and will erupt. It is in nature as it is inside our bodies.


My name is Vanessa, I am forty-four years old. I am a mother of three and an author; I am a journalist (even though I quit mainstream journalism in 2012 anyone in this profession knows you can leave journalism, but it never leaves you). I am so many things to so many people and have been so many things to so many people. And for the greater part of my little more than four decades on this earth, I have been nothing to myself. A fake and a fraud, living and lying to keep the façade of the woman I convinced myself, the world would rather see and know. And I excelled. Man, I was damn good. So, I thought.


But the cracks were showing and soon it would rip open, and it would be both a profoundly powerful release and the most debilitating thing, that would compel me to finally acknowledge and see myself in all my nakedness, every fading scar both on my skin and the ones that remained stubbornly in my brain.
It was December 1999, I was 22 years old when one word; YES, would come to kill that young, naïve, and dare I say wonderfully wild-spirited girl I was.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END


I was a rookie radio news reporter at the SABC based in Durban. I was damn lucky to have gotten into one of the biggest broadcasting companies in the country, fresh out of Technikon, a diploma to my name and big dreams in my head.
That is where I met my boyfriend. He was a DJ on Lotus FM (a radio station owned by the SABC that catered to a predominantly Indian audience). He would become my first intimate partner. He would become my first boyfriend. He would become my worst nightmare. It was barely a month into our relationship when he first struck me. I was sitting in the front seat of his car, he was ranting and shouting like a madman, saliva flying out of his mouth. This was new to me. I had no reason to feel that I was in any danger when his arm with a fist formed at the end reached out and punched me in the chest.


I am not sure if that hurt or whether it was the fact that he had just punched me that hurt more. Time is clever that way, it can make you forget the physical pain, but it will never let you forget every minute painful detail.
Of course, I couldn’t believe what had just happened to me. Perhaps more shocking was that this person who portrayed himself as such a charming, affable, affluent man, this DJ who never missed an opportunity to talk about his fame or the women that would throw themselves at him, had just done something that surely men of this caliber and stature didn’t do!


He cried, he apologised. He even said that he wouldn’t blame me if I left him. So, I did what every good girl is subversively conditioned to do; I apologised, comforted him, and promised that I would not leave him, because you see shortly after delivering that punch, he also declared that he loved me. Two big, monumental firsts within minutes of each other. My first punch from my boyfriend and the first I love you from the same man.
By accepting both, I had made a pact with a human being so profoundly evil that it would become impossible to leave, to walk away. For a little more than five years, this became symptomatic of our turbulent and deeply troubled relationship.

vanessa govender, beaten but not broken, author

Don’t get me wrong for one second, there were good times and great times during our years together. We drank. We partied. We laughed. We talked. There would always be extravagant gifts, soft-spoken beguiling words gently handed over after the manic, violent barrage of slaps, punches, kicks, and vile insults. He was always sorry. You see he loved me so much that when he felt he couldn’t get through to me, it would drive him to these violent displays of his love and passion.

Deep inside me, the anger and hatred grew. Insidiously snaking its way, poisoning me, suffocating me…… killing me. Slowly I began to shift and continuously shape myself, making myself smaller, lowering my voice, quietening my thoughts and opinions, stifling my spirit. Together we worked to all but destroy me. Him with his violence. Me with my desire to please and keep the peace.


I am starting to feel sad now, angry again, remembering this. Every time I do this I purge myself a little more. But where I once tried to suppress pain and emotions, where I once convinced myself silence and forgetting is the bitter salve to soothe the shredded soul, I now know, this myth that women are force-fed is not to serve them, not to help them, but to protect not just their abusers but the toxic system that enables men to perpetuate their evil with carefree abandon and their gatekeepers (some of whom are women).


You see even after releasing my memoir Beaten but Not Broken, I thought there would be some miraculous healing. Like all the bad emotions and the tears and the feelings of wanting to end my life would be over. Boy was I wrong. Remembering and writing not only resurrected every horrible thing that was done to me during my violent love affair with the radio jock, but it also forced me to face myself. To finally embrace all the trauma and pain and to mourn and grieve. And it was a catastrophic revelation and cataclysmic release.


The body and brain demand of us not to deny and deprive but to hold space for ourselves. Healing is not meant to be a seamless and clean process. It is messy, it is crippling, and it is monumentally debilitating. But in all of that you remember you, you remember yourself, who you were before someone tried to break and bind you, kill and quell you. From ashes, beautiful things can be built and beautiful things can emerge. A little spent, a little bent, but hey what can be more powerful and more breath-taking than being able to live with absolute truth and honesty. To not be held hostage or blackmailed by fear and trauma.

vanessa govender, author, writer
Vanessa’s book, “Beaten but not Broken”

BREAKING FREE

But I omitted to tell you one minor detail in all of this. For all my bravado. For all the courage I was praised for having to write this book and speak my truth. I was still being dishonest. And dishonesty my friend does not have to be a blatant lie. Dishonesty is also the withholding of information.
I wrote about losing my virginity in the back seat of his car (bearing in mind I come from a very conservative community where sex before marriage is seen as a disgrace for young women) I shared intimate details of everything. But one thing. And without even knowing this withholding that one thing still kept me enslaved to my fears to the system that demanded I shut up. That I go quietly.


And when eventually I would say the name of my abuser during an online web discussion, that was when I had finally been able to stand up and say I have spoken my truth. It was only then I felt this sudden and overwhelming release. I could breathe again; I could taste the air and inside a quiet stillness settled. I had taken back my power. I had finally remembered who and what I was.

Oh, saying his name did come with some drama. He threatened to sue. He issued a statement claiming I had a vendetta and was obsessed with him. Hell, he even got his wife to speak on his behalf to a local newspaper in which she claimed she did not know me, and I was making a public spectacle of myself. A woman who proclaimed to be an advocate for women’s rights and against gender violence, publically condemning another woman for daring to break the silence. I was not quite sure if I should find it funny or fundamentally tragic.

You see I did the very same thing for him back when we were together. When my own family would ask about the bruises and scars that often adorned my face and body. I lied. When I was confronted with questions if he was abusing me, I lied. I said he couldn’t do that. That he would never do that. So, I feel for this woman. I was once her. I want to judge her and be angry with her. But I am looking at her through the eyes of the woman I have become and not the girl I used to be. And that is not a fair thing to do. She has not done anything I didn’t once do for this man.

SECONDARY TRAUMA


But there are far too many people claiming to be gender activists or against GBV but when faced with assertions of the crime against men they may know, who are family, friends, or even current partners are quick to shun survivors.
If we are to accept rape and gender violence exists and it does because the mangled bodies, some burnt, some strung from trees, some tossed in rubbish heaps like garbage, some that are never even found, tell us it exists, our own experiences prove it exists, then we must also accept that men we know are guilty of this. Yes, we know it’s not all men but seeing as we don’t know which men, we will assume all men for the sake of our safety. Women are not raping and killing themselves. Women are not beating themselves up.

beaten but not broken, vanessa govender

NO MORE SILENCE!

When my abuser’s lawyers’ letter did come some months later asking for an apology and retraction, I told my lawyer he could “f-off and die” of course she found a more eloquent way of putting it in our responding letter. We also urged my abuser to pursue the legal action he threatened both on social media and in the newspapers, as it would allow all the facts and my assertions to be aired and vented in a court of law. We also requested an address to which we could serve an application of our own.


That letter was sent in late last year. It’s now nearly June 2021 and we have yet to receive a response.
You see abusers never stop. Just look at how many so-called influential men have been outed. Social media had provided a powerful platform for survivors to break the silence.


No, we are not looking for attention! We just no longer want to keep the secrets of our abusers and rapists. It’s not our job to protect these miscreants.
NO, it is not a trend for women to speak out! We just get courage every time one of us breaks the silence, we realise justice cannot always be found in a court of law and that the system is not designed to help women get justice but rather to make it intrinsically difficult for them.


NO, we don’t want to destroy our abusers and rapists or their happy families. We believe they did that themselves the moment they decided to physically or sexually hurt us. And the moment they raped, abused, or killed; they lost every single right to carry on their lives as if nothing happened while women are forced to carry the cross of trauma every single second they breathe.


No, we are not looking for pity! We have shed our tears, sometimes some of us have even tried to permanently forget by trying to end our lives. We don’t need pity. We need the good guys, the good people, those around us to act!

My abuser despite also having had charges brought against him by another woman and for revenge porn and assault and which was later dropped, despite the written indictment of my experience, was still employed by a local community radio station.
NO, we don’t need the bullshit rhetoric that’s spewed out during every 16 days of activism or women’s month. Yes, the radio station called on women to break the silence yet chose to ignore women when they spoke out against their newly acquired DJ.

Some may say what is the point then of breaking the silence. Some may say move on. Some may say get over it. Some may say tone it down. Some may say mind your language. Some may say forget about it. Some may even try to gaslight you “you have a good life now. You have everything now. Why bring up the past.”
I am here to give you some well-earned advice; Screw them!

Vanessa Govender
Vanessa Govender

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GREAT WOMEN

Anyone who has your interest would never try to silence you. It serves no one, least of all you, to remain silent. I may never see it in my lifetime. A world where women can walk safely, can go out at night without fear of being raped, wear what she wants without being blamed for any violence meted out against her. A world where even our babies won’t be violated. A world where men who rape and beat up women, who sexually harass, and harangue women are shamed and shunned and become an extinct species.


I will not see that world before I die. But I am going to do all I can to make it easier for even just one other woman to reclaim her power, remember her voice and break the barricades they have been building around us for centuries to keep us suppressed and subjugated.


I will always be in fear of my abuser. Men like that never change. I am no martyr, but I am a mother. And I am obligated because of that to speak and never stop because I am you, young lady reading this.
The shame is not yours. It never was. The fear, yes totally understandable and very necessary. Because without fear we cannot act to save ourselves and those around us.
That which you have feared, who you have feared, must now live in fear of you. The truth does indeed set you free. I no longer live with the threat of someone outing me. I did that myself. And it’s the most damn powerful thing I have done.


There comes a time in a woman’s life when she must and will abandon propriety for ownership of herself and her life.
The voices of survivors are shifting this world on its very axis…. but it requires more and more, and we know there are so many more out there, fighting back tears, keeping up the façade of their lives disintegrating because that’s just not what GOOD GIRLS DO!
Don’t be a good girl. Be a damn GREAT WOMAN …. And speak, take your time, breathe, remember, mourn, grieve, speak…. We are all here waiting to take your hand and hold you. Heal yourself and save another. It is not weakness to weep, it is to show yourself the ultimate self-respect.

Vanessa Govender


So, speak. Others have gone before you, they are your shields. We have taken the barrage of criticism, of denials, of threats, of disbelief, we have dodged the venom of judgment and we are still standing. They are afraid of the voice of your truth of what you have survived of what you embody. Our very existence is a damning indictment of the ordeals we have endured and the people who have inflicted them on us.

Do you know whilst you tremble in fear, it is you who are being feared? Slay the monster, defeat the devil, use your words, use your voice, it is far more powerful than any fist raised against you. Your tears are never in vain, they will stain more than the blood drawn from you. They can violate your body, desecrate your soul but you always hold the power, because you are a walking living testimony to the genocide you have survived. The genocide on women of this country and world. Nothing can erase that truth. Nothing can diminish that power. And therein lies the salvation of every single survivor.

roses, heart, you are always in my heart

10 LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER

This will be my first Mother’s Day without my mom. In her honour, I’d like to share only 10 of the many lessons I learnt from her.

1. Always ask questions and never accept anything at face value. 

My mother always asked questions. When she didn’t understand something, you would have to explain it to her until she understood. She didn’t just accept any old answer and she would dig and dig until it made sense. I remember several occasions when we would be in the bank and she would struggle with one of the bank tellers to explain something to her until she could understand it well enough. It wasn’t always pleasant.

2. Always cook enough food. You never know who will knock at your door.

My mother had this thing about always making sure there was bread in the house. When I asked her about it once, she said you never know who will be coming to your door with an empty stomach or she would say, if someone hungry comes to your door, at least you can give them bread. She loved cooking for her family and she always made more than enough. She loved it when we enjoyed her food (which we always did) and she loved the fellowship it created.

3. Always feed your family before you eat. 

Food was my mother’s love language and she always made sure we dished up first before she did. Something else I fondly remember about her was that there was always food left and she would first ask if we wanted it before she ate.

mother, grandmothr, daughter, mother's day
My mother, my daughter and myself.

4. Make sure there’s desert on Sundays.

My mom had a sweet tooth all her life and she loved fresh cream cake. It was her philosophy that there had to be cake or some kind of desert on a Sunday after lunch. There would be times when she would sadly say, “I can’t believe there is no cake today” . She would always have some sort of candy or chocolate in her handbag and her grandchildren loved that. She was a fantastic grandmother.

5. Know how to count your money. 

My mother was good with math and she always had to make sure she knew exactly where her money was going. Every cent of it. She would use old school calculators and write everything down. She religiously made grocery lists every time she went to the shop and she would do several sums until her books balanced.

6. Keep records of everything. 

This was very important to her. My mom wrote everything down. She was always afraid she might forget something. She left behind a big black suitcase with tons of documents in it. Her purse was always full of slips and papers with notes. She would even write down things my kids would say to her during the day so that she can tell it to me when I got off work.

7. Don’t be a push-over.

My mother was not a push-over. She never let anyone walk all over her and on several occasions she would tell me the same. She always told me to stand up for myself and never let people take advantage of me.

8. Always be kind.

My mom was a kind woman. She was always generous, whether with money, food or her time. She would listen to people as they spoke and she always offered advice.

mother, children, mothers day
My mom and 3 of her children. We are five in total.

9. Dance at every possible opportunity that you get. 

There is this one memory that I’m sure my siblings and I share. It was on a Sunday and we came home from church. When we walked past one of the windows, we saw our mother in the kitchen cooking and dancing while she did. She looked so happy and free and she was in her element. We all just stood there, watching her through the window, dancing. That is one memory I’ll never forget.

10. Don’t sleep in and always make your bed. 

The first thing my mother always did when she woke up was make her bed. Before she passed, she was teaching my daughter how to make the bed. I’ll be honest, I’m not as diligent as my mother was with making my bed.

There are many other lessons I learnt from my mother. Lessons she didn’t always know she was teaching me and lessons I didn’t always want to learn at the time.

red rose, lost love, snow

HOW DO I SAY GOODBYE: A TRIBUTE TO NADIA GOETHAM

How do you say goodbye to the person who changed your life forever? I have been forced to find an answer to that question- unprepared and unequipped- on Sunday afternoon upon hearing the news that my publisher and friend, Nadia Goetham, has passed away. Even as I write this tribute, I am still grasping at straws, lost and unable to give you an answer.

NADIA; MORE THAN A FRIEND

Nadia was a journalist, a production manager, a publishing powerhouse, a friend, a sister and a mentor. If I had to use one word to describe Nadia; it would be “beloved”. She crept into your heart and stayed there. Nadia was loved by almost everyone she met. Her charisma and kindness always shone through with every interaction you would have with her. She gave of herself freely expecting nothing in return.

Nadia was also the catalyst behind many dreams coming true. I would know this because there would be no Terry-Ann Adams without Nadia Goetham. My first interaction with Nadia was a life changing email sent very early on a Saturday morning. “We loved your manuscript and I would like to have a chat about it.” I couldn’t believe what I had read. I had given up on my manuscript after rejection and imposter syndrome kicked my ass. When I met with Nadia, we spoke about everything: growing up coloured, living in Joburg, my pregnancy and my manuscript. From that meeting on, we were not just author and publisher but friends- mentor and mentee.

Image
Terry-Ann Adams (author ) and publisher / friend Nadia Goetham

TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM

The rest is history. My life was changed forever when the world was introduced to Those Who Lived In Cages. Nadia was my biggest cheerleader. She believed in me when I did not believe in myself. She vouched for me, for my work. And the amazing thing is that she did that with all her authors. When she believed in you, she would ride for you like four flat tires.

The literary landscape has lost one of its most valuable members. I weep for the authors that she was yet to discover and for those who loved her. I weep because I don’t know how I will write another story knowing that Nadia will never read it.

She recently tweetedTell them you love them, Tell them you love them today.” 

My heart goes out to her family, friends and fellow members of the South African literary industry.

You can buy Terry-Ann’s Novel here : Jacana Media

Twitter: Terry-Ann Adams

flower, rose, love

DEAR MOTHER

I often think of the days that I use to perch on your lap
And grab you around your neck
And kiss your aging cheeks.


I often wonder if I will ever be able to do that again.
The chasm between us seems to have become so relentless
That I often wonder if we’ll ever be able to cross it.


Mother, ma as I know you,
I sometimes think back to when we use to be
Best friends, I was the envy of my siblings
As you always had my back.
Now I look back and see the strays of memories
We have left behind.


I see you, you’re getting older.
You have a limp
And the 60 years that our Father has granted you
Is starting to show.


I remember watching you sit
At the window in our small flat
Writing down random numbers;
Maybe it was the dates of the births of all your children,
Even the ones you never saw growing up.
Or maybe how many times your heart was broken.
Or was it the number of times you cried?


Now you don’t count anymore,
You just stare ahead, waiting for the
End of each day.
Maybe the dates and numbers and opportunities
That you never had have all lost their meaning.


You turned into a sad and helpless creature
Right before my eyes
It made me feel sad and helpless for
Not knowing how to reach out.


Dear mother,
My arrogance and pride has prevented me
From coming to you and telling you
That I miss your bear-like embrace.
It has put a wall up in the
Middle of our home
As we pass one another
During the day
Like strangers at night.


We hardly say a word to another
And when we do, its
Laced with irritations and criticism.


Mother, I am sorry
For being too big for my shoes and
Forgetting that you too
Are leaving shoes that no one
Will ever be able to fill.

nadia goetham, publisher,writer, rip

A CALLING AND A CURSE, BUT I LOVE IT!

A reminder that selling 3000 copies of a novel in South Africa is considered a bestseller. And yet we struggle to sell 1000 copies of one title over 2 to 3 years.

Please support local writers and their attempts to publish our local stories.”

That’s the tweet.

I must have typed and retyped it ten times, saved it in my drafts all ten times and then thought “screw it” before I tweeted it with hopes of engagement, no drama and plenty of retweets to keep the conversation going. By the time my carefully constructed tweet flew into the blue bird app’s ether it was 8.36am on 28 January 2021, and I had been awake for a good four hours already.

I’d woken up at 4.30am. For the past five weeks deep, uninterrupted sleep had been as elusive as a fiction bestseller in South Africa. Instead my sleep had been punctured with Covid-19-induced anxiety, loss, sadness, one too many memorial services and funerals online … more loss, double the anxiety of loved ones testing positive for the dreaded virus and what lies in wait for them as they recover at home or, heaven forbid, have to do so at a hospital, probably one not of their choosing. All this while trying to muster some courage to start the new year with verve and optimism to publish new authors and their books. This second wave of this bastard pandemic had us firmly in its grips, and I was suffering mentally and emotionally.

After a three-week break in December, I was back at my job, at my home desk in my little cottage in Greenside. My to-do list looked endless, but my focus was on my main priority which was to complete the final proofreading checks of the next novel that we will be publishing at Jacana Media. I am a publisher there and have been tasked to take care of a handful of authors, unearth new writers, and search for ground-breaking new content to publish and help increase revenue and profit.

Nadia Goetham

My first author to publish in 2021 is the award-winning novelist Ashraf Kagee, who had penned his second novel titled By the Fading Light. The novel came to us via our submissions portal and was then included in Pitch to Publication, where authors are given an opportunity to pitch their book idea live to a panel of judges, which would usually consist of a combination of publishers, book publicists, literary journalists and other publishing industry specialists. A way to set Jacana Media apart from other publishing houses in South Africa, Pitch to Publication has also given our publishers an opportunity to meet prospective authors in person at a very early stage of the submissions process, interrogate the thinking that informs their writing, while creating marketing mileage for our small independent publishing house.

By the Fading Light is a gorgeous novel that delves into the themes of “lost innocence, the uncertainty of kindship ties, and the unbending nature of fate”. The manuscript had to go through a few iterations before we settled on the final touches to the manuscript before it swanned its way to one of the best fiction editors in South Africa to help spit and polish it into the best possible shape for the readers here and abroad.

Ashraf Kagee, author of ‘By The Fading Light’

I was excited to work with the author and looking forward to conceptualising a punchy marketing campaign, drive publicity for the book to book-loving fiction readers, and hopefully (fingers crossed) garner many sales and new readers in the process. The content was exemplary. The author was well-established as an award winner, albeit he is not in the public eye that much, but we had a pretty good foundation, through our learnings from the pre-order marketing campaign we did for debut author Terry-Ann Adams’s Those Who Live in Cages, to help us push this latest novel from Jacana Media into the consciousness of readers and the media alike.

Terry-Ann Adams, author of “Those who live in cages’

As I try to settle down and get going with conceptualising the new pre-order marketing campaign, the facts related to that tweet kept pushing front of mind. Facts that every publisher have uppermost in their minds as they choose who and what to publish; how best to package new content; how to sell it in what sometimes feels like a saturated market overflowing with amazing books and authors, but also too little disposable income in the pockets of the citizens of the most unequal country in the world.

“A reminder that selling 3000 copies of a novel in South Africa is considered a bestseller. And yet we struggle to sell 1000 copies of one title over 2 to 3 years.

Please support local writers and their attempts to publish our local stories.”

I’m distracted (another issue that this pandemic has cemented in the last few months) wondering how different my life would have been if I had put my Journalism degree to full use and remained working in media for a large multinational company or if I’d transitioned to corporate communications. I’d be earning a bundle more, that’s for sure. I’d probably have greater job security and many perks that would come with a top-tier salary and years of experience. It all looked so amazing in my mind’s eye. And it seemed as if it would feel great too.

But then I think about not being a book publisher … Would I be as passionate as I am about books and all that goes with publishing them? Would I get the same goosebumps when I read a highly anticipated second draft of a manuscript? Or would I have a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth while I copy and paste a beautifully reworked chapter to a fellow publisher, so I can have a humble brag about my author who has delivered over and above what I had expected them to do. Would I be able to use my journalism skill of hunting down the best new political analyst on the block to bring her into the fold of authors that I so love and admire? Probably not.

And so that’s why I stay. That’s why I take the okay salary (that has been cut by 25% since the first lockdown at the beginning of 2020) and I make do. That’s why I look for the gifted black and brown writers who need the recognition and the nurturing, so they can see themselves published in their fields of expertise with pride. That’s why I take the time to answer all the publishing queries in my DM’s, help where I can and point people in the right direction where I can’t. That’s why I support and root for all the writers who come across my path – the self-published, the established, the award winners, the newly published, and the aspiring ones.

Earning a living as a book publisher in South Africa is a tough act. It’ll come at you with all its might threatening to take you out as you try to cajole authors into finally writing their second book, edit manuscripts into publishable artworks without losing the voice of the new author, test your very limited Excel skills, dash your hopes with budgets that just won’t budge, compete with bigger and better marketing campaigns that could render your attempts stillborn, and generally just exhaust you right down to the bone.

Those in the know will tell you, if you have less passion than conviction, you’ll probably leave the publishing industry within a year of starting to work in it. We find ourselves in an industry that is struggling to keep head above water. Cost increases for skilled professionals, printing, distribution and bookselling see most publishers struggling and trying their very best to publish new titles that will be profitable, so those profits can support the writing, production, printing and distribution of new titles that are important, but not necessarily wildly popular or bestsellers in waiting. The balance is delicate and requires a firm business mind but also one that understands the South African book-reading and buying public and the mandate that every publisher in a developing country such as ours should have.

As I push the facts of my tweet to the back of my mind and turn my attention to the blank Excel spreadsheet in front of me, I realise it should have had at least half of my marketing campaign for By the Fading Light mapped out by now. I shake off the worries that I cannot control and focus my attention on what a beautiful book Ashraf Kagee has written and how everyone who loves fiction, reading or just the telling of a good story should have a copy on their bookshelves by the end of April. And if that were to come to fruition, we’d have a 10-time over fiction bestseller, a positive tick to add to our publishing success and some profit to support all the new writers who are waiting with their beautiful manuscripts to be published.

Book cover of ‘By The Fading Light’

In bookstores in April, By the Fading Light by Ashraf Kagee is an astonishing evocation of Salt River, Cape Town, in 1960, and follows the lives of three friends who play a prank that places their lives at risk. Set in the shadow of the Sharpeville massacre, the lives of four young boys is weaved together in a beautiful story of lost innocence, the uncertainty of kinship ties, and the unbending nature of fate. Kagee’s first novel Khalil’s Journey won the 2012 European Union Literary Award and the 2013 South African Literature Award.

Book cover of ‘Those Who Live In Cages’

Those Who Live in Cages, Terry-Ann Adams’s first novel was published in October 2020 and  captures an astonishingly intimate view of life in Eldorado Park, a Coloured township south of Johannesburg, through five women – Bertha, Kaylynn, Laverne, Janice and Raquel. These unforgettable characters’ lives intersect as they attempt to do the most important thing: survive another day in “The Park”.

With a nod to Marian Keyes, a curtsy to Shirley, Goodness & Mercy and a wave to Bernardine Evaristo, Those Who Live in Cages will move you, lift you, and yes, change you.

*****

Nadia Goetham passed away on Sunday the 25th of April 2021 due to Covid-19 complications. The bio provided below is what Nadia wrote about herself when she contributed this guest post. Nothing has been changed. She also added a list of independent bookstores and publishers in South Africa which she supported.

Nadia Goetham hails from Paarl in the Western Cape, and has been living and working in Johannesburg for the past 21 years. She is a qualified journalist with close to 25 years’ experience in media, communications and publishing. The last 5 years she’s been working in the book publishing industry as a production manager and more recently as a publisher. Her goal is to encourage and facilitate the publication of works of fiction and non-fiction by black and brown authors, with a view of making them household names in South Africa and across the continent.

A quote that sums up Nadia’s love for books and the art of publishing: “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” – from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

TOP 8 BOOK WEBSITES IN SA TO VISIT AND SUPPORT

With a focus on small independent publishers and bookshops, I’d like to promote the following websites that are all e-commerce complaint, people in SA can shop online for home delivery.

  1. https://jacana.co.za/
  2. https://blackbirdbooks.africa/
  3. https://cheekynatives.co.za/
  4. https://www.bookcapital.co.za/
  5. https://lovebooks.co.za/
  6. https://bridgebooks.co.za/
  7. https://booklounge.co.za/
  8. https://clarkesbooks.co.za/

George Floyd, justice

BLACK DON’T CRACK

They say black don’t crack
but his neck did crack
when a knee was bent
on a strong black neck.

In an unofficial act,
a figure of authority,
hand on the holster,
bolstering on a minority,
in an act of superiority.

The man lying on the street,
accepting his feat,
saying, ‘I can’t breathe’
Because black don’t crack
but my will did when a mother’s son was killed
by a man called to serve.
Now the only thing he will serve
is time in a cell unreserved.

Black still don’t crack,
even when the whip does.
Those lives will continue to matter
through wounds and bruises
as the sirens try to drown out,
Black Lives Matter!

People always fear what they don’t understand
but you are brave enough to take a stand.
Marching through the streets,
chanting , ‘Black Lives Matter!’

I don’t know who gets madder,
the man holding the gun in his hand
or the one on the other end.

And when they cracked the whip on your father’s dark skin,
remember yesterday your kin was lying in the street,
unable to breathe
Now today you’re here,
breathing for him.

candle, light, candlelight, death, loss,

DEATH. AN UNINVITED GUEST.

Death doesn’t rest. It’s relentless in its pursuits. It has an insatiable hunger that is never satisfied. It is quick, you don’t see it coming even when you are expecting it and even when you’ve experienced it before, it still hits you like a ton of bricks every single time it crosses your path.

We say life is short; knowing that death doesn’t time its arrival. It’s an uninvited guest. The one you ignore when it’s knocking at your door.

The one whose calls you avoid and pretend doesn’t exist.

But it’s there.

It’s always there.

It feeds on your tears and leaves no time for grief before the next loss.

It’s like rolling thunder and unceasing rain.

Death doesn’t rest or becomes tired. It doesn’t need to take a break.

Death needs no invitation and it doesn’t need a seat at the table.

It simply shows up,

and commands an audience.

Dr. Sindi, Covid- 19, kindness

Dr. Sindi -A benchmark for Kindness

Once in a while you come across a person who shines a beautiful and pure light, right from their soul and spirit. This person radiates joy and love, kindness and compassion. This person makes you want to become a better person and makes you want to stay in their presence so that you too, can have only just a little of that light that they give off. I believe Dr. Sindi van Zyl was one such a person.

I have never met her in person, I only followed her on Twitter. She was very engaging to her followers and always answered as many questions and queries as she could. She had laughter in her eyes and her smile reached up to her ears.

When I saw the news yesterday that she had lost her battle to Covid-19, my heart instantly broke. My heart broke because the world lost a beautiful soul. My heart broke for her children and her husband who will now have to learn a new way of living without their mother and wife. My heart broke for all those people who knew her personally and whose lives are now slightly emptier without her. My heart broke for myself, for losing my mother less than a year ago. My heart broke because death does not get easier, no matter how many times we experience it and no matter how many people we lose, death always has the upper hand.

Scrolling through social media since the news of her death broke; I realised how many lives she touched, even if it was just through a tweet. I have to wonder if she knew how many people loved her without even knowing her. I do believe that she loved people, not only because of her profession but simply because she gave people time. She gave them an ear. She saw them when they felt unseen.

Dr. Sindi, Covid-19, kindness, love

My prayer is that we can all take away a few lessons from the life Dr. Sindi lived. She had compassion, she had love and she was kind. She was simply kind. Kindness was her superpower. Kindness was what drew people to her.

I believe there are but a few people like her in this world but I also believe that we can all strive to be more loving and to be more kind.

That is what the world needs right now.