Sindiwe Magona’s biography of Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Theatre Road, on the Exclusive Books HOMEBRU list

EB Homebru

Homebru: Meet South African authors in their own words

Themed under the banner of “Meet them in their own words”, this year we aim to make our valued authors the heroes of the campaign that celebrate the pens behind the text.

We have chosen books across a wide range of genres – reflective of the current burgeoning publishing of local writing. Cookery, biography, fiction, current affairs, inspirational and children’s are all covered in the selection.

This year, the Homebru campaign runs to the end of July 2020.

HOMEBRU – THEATRE ROAD

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Theatre Road: My Story

Lockdown musings on survival

The publishing industry has always included an element of chance that we all accept and live with. From the question of which manuscript gets published – through editing, proofreading, designing, printing, distribution and promotion – to finally book selling and buying, few things are predictable. We are part of a creative industry, sustained mostly by the sweat and blood of artists. There are few creative people in this for the money. If you are a writer, from your usual royalties, you might be able to buy yourself a packet of cigarettes on the black market right now. Hardly anyone can live off writing alone. We all hustle and keep other jobs to sustain our love for the written word.

But now, like many other sectors of the economy, we are all facing The Great Unknown, way beyond the usual Russian roulette that is writing and publishing. Books can still be written and prepared for printing, but they cannot be printed, distributed, sold and bought in bookshops right now. Unless they are ebooks, of course. But there is a reason why ebooks have not replaced the book in our lives, and I still can’t bring myself to consider ebooks seriously. I have not become a publisher to bring ebooks into this world. I am old-fashioned and stubborn that way. I have always been in love with the book as a physical object. Karavan Press has only one title available as an ebook and only because I promised the author that I would brave e-publishing for her. I did and we produced a great e-version of a beautiful real book, but I cannot imagine it without the real thing being in the world. What consequences the lockdown will have for publishing is extremely difficult to predict, like everything else right now, and I think we are all apprehensive. We are all busy reinventing the world. Or just sitting still and waiting. Karavan Press is probably the smallest fish in the local publishing pond; we only started bringing out books in July last year. For us, this is not only uncharted territory, this is “here be dragons”.

Jacana Media tweeted the following today: “ARE BOOKS ESSENTIAL? In our small book publishing industry in SA, we believe they are. But can we ask President Cyril Ramaphosa to reconsider the government’s stance that books are non-essential?”

It is important to open up this conversation. I was asked for comment and wrote the following:

“In general, I agree. Books are essential in ways that a tweet can’t articulate, but relaxing the lockdown for one form of creativity would not be fair to others. Also, I don’t want readers or booksellers risking lives, their own and others’. There must be other avenues of support.”

“As a reader, I am trying to support the book industry by pre-ordering and paying for books for after the lockdown and reading and reviewing the ones I already have at home. I’m not an ebook reader, so this is my way of sustaining the booksellers/publishers for now.”

“As a writer, luckily I still have some paid work. And, as always, I am mostly writing for the love of it. I have seen in the past that I can survive nearly anything as long as words are not taken away from me. I write because I don’t know how else to be.”

“As a publisher, I don’t know whether Karavan Press will survive the cash-flow situation in the next few weeks. We are infants in the business, but I will do whatever I can to keep our dreams alive. I am confident that together with our authors & readers we will pull through.”

How? I don’t know. But I think of the amazing people I work with at Karavan Press – writers, designers, editors, proofreaders, distributors, booksellers, festival organisers, interviewers, reviewers and, of course, readers – I picture their faces, real, individual faces, and I know that I believe in this literary ecosystem and I believe it is worth saving, sustaining and supporting. To do it financially, cash-flow will be essential, especially for the smaller and independent fish in the pond that are already swimming against impossible currents.

I think that it is important not to break the chain that links the writer to the reader, that is why as a reader I am pre-ordering books and paying for them now. I am happy to wait for them to be printed and delivered to the bookshops for me to pick up after the lockdown. Luckily, books don’t go off. My gut-feeling is that if the booksellers manage to survive, the rest of the system will pull through with them. Where the government could step in, apart from the general relief measures that are being introduced right now? Not sure. All I can think of are ideas I have seen elsewhere in the world. Acknowledge that writers are vital contributor to the well-being of society and pay them properly for their work. Offer extensive, well-monitored grant schemes for authors, editors, proofreaders, designers. Support literary festivals. Reconsider VAT for books. Make sure that every library in the country can buy books on a regular basis that is curated for their readers’ wishes and needs. None of this is easy – it hasn’t been before either.

I think what is most important right now is that as individuals and collectively we understand our own expectations and responsibilities and communicate with the relevant parties about solutions to problems that arise as we all stumble along. I have been in touch with Karavan Press authors – published and in the process of being published by Karavan Press – in the beginning of the lockdown and together we will attempt to get to the other side of this scary, unprecedented time. I have asked for patience and kindness. Their responses made me believe that we will make it. Together.

 

Frosty and Salieri know best

Nobody does quarantine better than literary cats. They know how to stay at home and snuggle up in bed with a great book. Here are Karavan Press’s Frosty and Salieri with Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker. Up Lit at its best! If you would like to follow in Frosty’s and Salieri’s furry footsteps, but don’t have a physical copy of the book yet, we offer the ebook version on Kindle at a special quarantine price. Happy reading! Stay safe. Furry love from all of us.

Blown Away by Books, Fish Hoek Library, 11-14 March 2020

Blown Away By Books 2020

Karavan Press authors Melissa A. Volker and Dawn Garisch will be participating in this year’s BLOWN AWAY BY BOOKS at the Fish Hoek Library. The festival is taking place between 11 and 14 March 2020.

Shadow Flicker launch at Book Lounge4Writing the Environment: where fact meets fiction

Novelists Lynton Burger (She Down There), Melissa A. Volker (Shadow Flicker) and environmentalists Colin Bell (The Last Elephants) and Richard Peirce (Orca: The day the Great White sharks disappeared)  talk to Robin Adams of World Wide Fund for Nature about telling stories that need to be written about our world.

Saturday morning, 14 March, 10:00-11:30, Fish Hoek Library.

Dawn Garisch at Open BookThis Writing Life

Tracey Farren asks novelists Dawn Garisch (Breaking Milk),  Qarnita Loxton (Being Shelley) and Trevor Sacks (Lucky Packet) where their stories come from. Do they arrive fully formed, or do uncontrollable characters dictate what will happen next? How do they write, and when, and why, and can anyone ever fully explain this writing life?

Saturday afternoon, 14 March, 14:00-15:30, Fish Hoek Library.

 

BLown Away by Books programme

Tickets available for WOMEN IN A FRACTURED WORLD: Melissa A. Volker and Dawn Garisch in conversation with John Maytham

SALONFESTIVAL CAPE TOWN 2020:

27 February 2020, 18:00-20:30

Karavan Press authors Melissa A. Volker and Dawn Garisch will talk to John Maytham of CapeTalk about the divisions and connections between humans, animals and the environment in the Rosebank home of writer, editor and publisher Karina Magdalena Szczurek.

Dawn’s latest novel is the evocative meditation Breaking Milk, and Melissa’s are eco-romance thrillers Shadow Flicker and A Fractured Land. As a writer, medical doctor and founder of the Life Righting Collective, in her writing, Dawn explores the fascinating relationship between art and science. As a writer, blogger, environmentalist and SUP surfer, Melissa includes environmental themes in her stories to increase awareness about such topics as fracking and renewable energy in a palatable way that will not make readers feel disheartened. Both write about independent women and their relationships with the land in their home country, South Africa.

To book tickets, click here: WOMEN IN A FRACTURED WORLD: MELISSA A. VOLKER AND DAWN GARISCH IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN MAYTHAM

Kate Sidley reviews Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch for the Sunday Times

A small world of deep metaphorical meaning

There is a lot in this slim book – art and science, family and culture, the workings of the heart and of the body

Review by Kate Sidley

On a farm in the Eastern Cape, Kate wakes before dawn, her head and heart in turmoil. She has good reason to worry – today is the day that her baby grandsons, conjoined twins, are to be separated. The risky surgery will take place in London. Kate’s estranged daughter, Jess, has told her definitively, and hurtfully: “Don’t come.”

On the same farm, Nosisi awaits the return of her son, who is undergoing the traditional initiation into manhood. Another anxious mother, another separation, another child at risk.

“So many women down the ages have lain awake in the earth’s great shadow, insomniac over their progeny, their sons and daughters intent on escaping their mothers’ intractable worry,” writes Dawn Garisch in Breaking Milk.

The book takes place over one day, from Kate’s early-morning wake up, and within the confines of the farm and the house she shares with her demented father and his carer. As she ponders her painful choice – respecting her daughter’s wishes, or rushing to be at her side – she must continue to take care of business. Once a microbiologist geneticist working on embryos in a fertility lab, she is now the creator of prize-winning goat’s cheese…

Continue reading: Sunday Times

LitNet’s Yolanda Wessels reviews Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker

Shadow Flicker on Muizenberg BeachShadow flicker vertel die storie van Kate Petersen wat leef vir haar werk, veral omdat haar persoonlike lewe ’n gemors is ná ’n lewensveranderende gebeurtenis. Sy vertrek na St Francisbaai in die Oos-Kaap, waar sy die boere moet oorreed om hul grond beskikbaar te stel vir die ontwikkeling van hernubare kragopwekking. Dit is haar keuse om nie haar baas in te lig dat sy terugkeer na die plek waar haar probleme ontstaan het nie – ’n tragedie wat steeds by haar spook en die oorsaak van haar paniekaanvalle is.

Hier ontmoet sy vir Dr Matthew Sykes, die dorp se veearts, wat steeds in rou is oor die ontydige dood van sy omgewingsgoedgesinde vrou. Alhoewel sy geensins beplan het om emosioneel betrokke te raak nie, ontwikkel dié twee spoedig ’n sagte plek vir mekaar. Ongelukkig is die pad nie net met rose besaai nie en behalwe vir die vyandigheid wat in die kusdorp uitbroei, word Kate die slagoffer van inwoners met verskuilde agendas…

Continue reading: LitNet

Beryl Eichenberger reviews Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch for the Woman Zone Book Club

Breaking_Milk_Dawn_Garisch_COVER_SMALLHighly emotive, the novel is an evocative and thoughtful exploration of confrontations, loss and ultimately acceptance.

Breaking Milk by Dawn Garisch is her 7th novel and takes us into the world of protagonist Kate, a former geneticist and now an award winning organic cheese maker, over one seminal day. Her estrangement from her daughter Jess is at the heart of the novel as, on this day, Jess’s conjoined twins will be separated and Jess has forbidden Kate to come to London to be with her.

Goat by Laty McLeanWe enter the rooms of Kate’s mind as she wrestles with her inner anguish using her routine chores to cover her turmoil. Making cheese, running the farm and restaurant, dealing with her dementia addled father, a manipulative ex-husband and a besotted neighbour take us step by step through this day in vivid prose. Mothers united in their fear, Kate and Nosisi whose son Luzoko is undergoing initiation, work side by side in silent contemplation.

Continue reading review: Woman Zone Book Club

Karavan Press title: a biography of Thembi Mtshali-Jones – THEATRE ROAD: MY STORY as told to Sindiwe Magona

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Growing up in the village of Sabhoza near Ulundi and the city of Durban of the 1950s and 1960s, THEMBI MTSHALI-JONES listened to her beloved gogo’s stories and marvelled at the voices emerging from her father’s gramophone, but she could never imagine that, one day, her own voice would be enthralling audiences across the globe. Or that she would become so famous that Nelson Mandela would thank her personally for entertaining him in prison where he watched her perform on TV as Thoko in the sitcom ‘Sgudi ‘Snaysi.

As a teenager living under apartheid, Thembi dreamt about getting a decent education and becoming a nurse. Life had other plans. She fell in love with the first man who paid her any attention and became pregnant soon after. Forced to leave Nursing College and her baby behind, so that she could earn a living taking care of other people’s families, she seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of many other women trying to survive their shattered hopes in the townships.

But the daughter of a white family employing Thembi in Durban heard her sing, first recognising the precious gift that fans cherish her for today. She encouraged Thembi to audition for a show. It was her first role, starting her on the path that would take her to stages around the world, where her life would inspire a sell-out musical and she would perform alongside and become lifelong friends with such greats as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Gcina Mhlophe.

Set against the background of South Africa’s tumultuous struggle for democracy, Theatre Road tells the remarkable story of Thembi’s illustrious career and the people and places who shaped her along the way, her tight-knit family and Durban most prominent among them.

In 2019, Thembi received the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theater Festival in Winston Salem, NC. The publication of Theatre Road coincides with the celebrations of her 70th birthday.

Listen, as she tells her story to her friend and collaborator, SINDIWE MAGONA

ISBN: 978-0-6399942-3-9 

Publication date: November 2019

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sindiwe Magona

Born in the Transkei in 1943, SINDIWE MAGONA finished high school by correspondence. She later completed a BA through the University of South Africa and went on to graduate with a Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University in New York. She worked for the United Nations at its headquarters in New York for over two decades before retiring to her native South Africa.

A prolific writer of children’s books, biography, poetry, short stories, plays and novels, Sindiwe is also a translator and highly regarded public speaker. Her books include To My Children’s ChildrenForced to Grow, Mother to MotherBeauty’s Gift and Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle.

Sindiwe’s work has been recognised with numerous awards. In 2007, she received the Molteno Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement for promoting Xhosa culture and language, the Permio Grinzane Terre D’Otrantro and the Department of Arts and Culture Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to South African Literature. She is also the recipient of the Bronx Recognises Its Own Fiction Award (2000), a Fellowship for Non-Fiction from the New York Foundation of the Arts and the Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze (2011), given in recognition of her literary and humanitarian contributions to society. The Xhosa Forum honoured her with a Heroes Award and the uNdimande Grand Prize. In 2012, she was joint winner (with Nadine Gordimer) of The Mbokodo Award, which recognises women who have shown leadership, fostered growth and made efforts to strengthen the arts. She was awarded the 2016 Gold Medal by the English Academy of Southern Africa, affirming her distinguished service to English over a lifetime.

The Hartwick College of New York conferred her with an honorary doctorate in 1993 and the Rhodes University of Grahamstown in 2018.

Sindiwe lives in Cape Town and is currently Writer in Residence at the University of the Western Cape.

Author photograph by Victor Dlamini

Karavan Press to publish a biography of Thembi Mtshali-Jones – THEATRE ROAD: MY STORY as told to Sindiwe Magona

It is with the greatest of pleasures and literary pride that Karavan Press announces the publication of a biography of Thembi Mtshali-Jones, THEATRE ROAD: MY STORY, as told to Sindiwe Magona.

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Growing up in the village of Sabhoza near Ulundi and the city of Durban of the 1950s and 1960s, Thembi Mtshali-Jones listened to her beloved gogo’s stories and marvelled at the voices emerging from her father’s gramophone, but she could never imagine that, one day, her own voice would be enthralling audiences across the globe. Or that she would become so famous that Nelson Mandela would thank her personally for entertaining him in prison where he watched her perform on TV as Thoko in the sitcom ‘Sgudi ‘Snaysi.

As a teenager living under apartheid, Thembi dreamt about getting a decent education and becoming a nurse. Life had other plans. She fell in love with the first man who paid her any attention and became pregnant soon after. Forced to leave Nursing College and her baby behind, so that she could earn a living taking care of other people’s families, she seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of many other women trying to survive their shattered hopes in the townships.

But the daughter of a white family employing Thembi in Durban heard her sing, first recognising the precious gift that fans cherish her for today. She encouraged Thembi to audition for a show. It was her first role, starting her on the path that would take her to stages around the world, where her life would inspire a sell-out musical and she would perform alongside and become lifelong friends with such greats as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Gcina Mhlophe.

Set against the background of South Africa’s tumultuous struggle for democracy, Theatre Road tells the remarkable story of Thembi’s illustrious career and the people and places who shaped her along the way, her tight-knit family and Durban most prominent among them.

In 2019, Thembi received the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theater Festival in Winston Salem, NC. The publication of Theatre Road coincides with the celebrations of her 70th birthday in November this year.

Sindiwe and Thembi

Thembi told her story to her friend and collaborator, Sindiwe Magona. The resulting biography is a deeply touching and inspiring account of an extraordinary life shaped by love, resilience and creativity.

In a recent interview with BONA Magazine, Thembi spoke about the “dedication and hard work” that have characterised her career as one of the most acclaimed, admired and internationally recognised South African musicians and actors. The Living Legend Award which she received from the National Black Theater Festival in the US earlier this year is the latest in a series of accolades, which include the Arts and Culture Trust Lifetime Achievement Award for Theatre, The Mbokodo Award, Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival and Best Actress Award at The Carthage Festival in Tunisia, to name only a few. She is currently starring in the e.tv drama Imbewu: The Seed in the role of MaNdlovu Bhengu.

Thembi collaborated on Theatre Road: My Story with no other than Sindiwe Magona, a South African legend in her own right.

Thembi and Sindiwe

The two artists first collaborated on a radio recording of one of Sindiwe’s short stories. Then, Thembi read Sindiwe’s famous Mother to Mother, a book based on the tragic killing of Amy Bhiel in Gugulethu in the violence of 1993. Together with Janice Honeyman, Sindiwe and Thembi adapted the book to a one-woman play, exploring the possibility of forgiveness and redemption between the mother of the killer and the mother of the victim.

Sindiwe and Thembi have begun work on Theatre Road a few years ago. The book will be published in November and enthral fans of both artists.

Sindiwe Magona

Born in the Transkei in 1943, Sindiwe Magona finished high school by correspondence. She later completed a BA through the University of South Africa and went on to graduate with a Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University in New York. She worked for the United Nations at its headquarters in New York for over two decades before retiring to her native South Africa.

A prolific writer of children’s books, biography, poetry, short stories, plays and novels, Sindiwe is also a translator and highly regarded public speaker. Her books include To My Children’s ChildrenForced to Grow, Mother to MotherBeauty’s Gift and Chasing the Tails of My Father’s Cattle.

Sindiwe’s work has been recognised with numerous awards. In 2007, she received the Molteno Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement for promoting Xhosa culture and language, the Permio Grinzane Terre D’Otrantro and the Department of Arts and Culture Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to South African Literature. She is also the recipient of the Bronx Recognises Its Own Fiction Award (2000), a Fellowship for Non-Fiction from the New York Foundation of the Arts and the Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze (2011), given in recognition of her literary and humanitarian contributions to society. The Xhosa Forum honoured her with a Heroes Award and the uNdimande Grand Prize. In 2012, she was joint winner (with Nadine Gordimer) of The Mbokodo Award, which recognises women who have shown leadership, fostered growth and made efforts to strengthen the arts. She was awarded the 2016 Gold Medal by the English Academy of Southern Africa, affirming her distinguished service to English over a lifetime.

The Hartwick College of New York conferred her with an honorary doctorate in 1993 and the Rhodes University of Grahamstown in 2018.

Sindiwe lives in Cape Town and is currently Writer in Residence at the University of the Western Cape.

Author photograph: Victor Dlamini