English novels written by South African women in 2017 – a list!

Last updated 11 August 2020

You may have read about the project I’m undertaking. If not, please read this page.

Today’s list is of books published in 2017 (in alphabetical order by surname).

*DISCLAIMER: If you know of a book and it doesn’t appear here, let me know! This post will be updated as and when I get new information.

Any omission is because I am human, and deeply flawed. Please help me correct my errors.

If you are are a South African women writer who published a full-length English novel (or whose novel was translated to English) in 2017, and your name is not on this list, please email me to let me know. Details here.*

English novels written by South African women in 2018 – a list!

Last updated: 9 August 2020

You may have read about the project I’m undertaking. If not, please read this page.

Today’s list is of books published in 2018 (in alphabetical order by surname).

Hope you enjoy!

*DISCLAIMER: If you know of a book and it doesn’t appear here, let me know! This post will be updated as and when I get new information.

Any omission is because I am human, and deeply flawed. Please help me correct my errors.

If you are are a South African women writer who published a full-length English novel (or whose novel was translated to English) in 2018, and your name is not on this list, please email me to let me know. Details here.*

English novels written by South African women in 2019 – a list!

Last updated: 22 July.

A few years back, I committed to reading only African women’s writing for a year. It was an incredible project and one that introduced me to a raft of talented writers that I might not have found otherwise. It was a bit of tough time in my life and these books helped me navigate, helped me see different versions of women survive and thrive, and inspired my own writing. I wrote about each book as I read it (you can read about that starting with the first book, Yewande Omotoso’s Bom Boy, here).

Next year (hopefully, pandemic allowing) I’ll be starting a slightly longer project – a PhD where I hope to be reading all the novels written by South African women in English (or translated to English, though I’m still deciding on this one and so have included them here while I make up my mind) published between 1994 and 2019. It’s going to be a mammoth, thrilling life-changing task. I cannot wait!

I want to point out some of my PhD parameters, for the sake of clarity and transparency. I am focussing on adult novels, written in English, published by publishers (rather than self-published), written by authors who identify as women, and who identify as South African.

It’s so important for me that it’s clear from the outset that these parameters are not at all related to what I think good literature is, they are parameters for a single degree and what I think I may be able to achieve in 3 to 5 years of my life. They are limitations, and they must be noted.

Like all good projects, this one begins with a list. What I didn’t anticipate was that making the list of South African women writers who were published in SA – simply getting down on paper the writers and their books, when they were published and by who – would be as much of a task as the reading. That’s probably half naïveté and half hoping that the publishers would keep those records themselves… not so.

It has been interesting to explore the sources of this information, why it hasn’t been kept in a more deliberate way, and what it all means. I’ve used journal articles, got some incredible help from the South African Museum of Literature, and have been google searching my heart out. I know that traditional publishing routes can and have and continue to exclude important texts and writers who have opted instead for self-publishing. If finding a list of published authors is hard enough, trying to make a list of self-published writers is going to be as difficult, if not more so.

This long explanation is really just me saying the following – I think anyone who puts their writing down on paper and send thats out into the world whether by the route of a traditional publisher or by publishing themselves is brave and inspiring and courageous. It is also me saying that I don’t want to miss anyone!

I have started making my list, and I am updating it regularly. I don’t see any reason why everyone who wants to embark on this journey shouldn’t have access to it, so I’ll be posting as a series of blog posts, by year over the coming weeks and months. I may post a few pieces here in the future about some of the trends this list is already revealing, but for now, I’m focussing on getting the list out.

UPDATE: Luckily, some kind people on Twitter have also volunteered to help me make sure this online list includes books published by indie publishers, and those that are self-published. Thank you!

The list I’ve include below is what I have found so far in alphabetical order (by surname).

If you know of a book and it doesn’t appear here, let me know!

  • Sally Andrew, Death on the Limpopo, Umuzi
  • Wilna Adrianse, Blindside, Tafelberg (Translation)
  • Carol Campbell, The Tortoise Cried its Only Tear, Umuzi
  • Nerine Dorman, The Company of Birds, Immanion Press
  • Finuala Dowling, Okay Okay Okay, Kwela
  • Tracey Farren, The book of Malachi, Kwela
  • Maire Fisher, The Enumerations, Umuzi
  • Dawn Garisch, Breaking Milk, Karavan Press
  • Kerstin Hall, The Border Keeper, Tor.com
  • Rashida Khan, The Fragrance of Forgiveness, Kwarts Publishers
  • Qarnita Loxton, Being Shelley, Kwela
  • Joanne MacGregor, The First Time I Fell, Self-published.
  • Eva Mazza, Sex, Lies, and Stellenbosch, Jacana
  • Nedine Moonsamy, The Unfamous Five, Modjaji Books
  • Susan Newham-Blake, As if Born to You, Penguin
  • Marguerite Poland, A Sin of Omission, Penguin
  • Kuli Roberts, Siren, Blackbird Books
  • Fiona Snyckers, Lacuna, Picador Africa
  • Marlene Van Niekerk, The Snow Sleeper, NB (Translation)
  • Meg Vandermerwe, The woman of the stone sea, Umuzi
  • Melissa Volker, Shadow Flicker, Karavan Press
  • Melissa Volker, A Fractured Land, Karavan Press
  • Ingrid Winterbach, The troubled times of Magrieta Prinsloo, Human & Rousseau (Translation)

You can get most of these books at the Book Lounge or your favourite local bookstore.

*DISCLAIMER: If you know of a book and it doesn’t appear here, let me know! This post will be updated as and when I get new information.

If you are are a South African women writer who published a full-length English novel (or whose novel was translated to English) in 2019, and your name is not on this list, please email me to let me know. Details here.

Any omission is because I am human, and deeply flawed. Please help me correct my errors.*

Writing advice from Lauren Beukes

More local writing advice!

Lauren Beukes is an award-winning South African author, and comics writer, screenwriter, journalist and documentary maker. Her books have been sold all around the world with huge acclaim.

Her most recent novel is a dystopian post-pandemic piece of fiction set in the USA. Afterland (listen to her talk about it on the Book Lounge podcast, here) explores what the world might look like shortly after (almost all) of the men die from a virus.

Lauren came to speak to our class when I was doing my creative writing Masters at UCT. One of the things I remember her saying was how hard it is to make things up in South Africa, because the truth always seems stranger than fiction. She encouraged us to look for the strange in the day to day. That advice was really useful to me.

So when I checked to see if she had any other similarly useful advice, I found a piece she’d written in 2016, giving writing advice to a 13 year old girl. Read the whole piece, here.

Here’s some of that advice.

Be curious about the world. Make notes, observe, colors and smells and feelings, textures, and sounds, the way car exhaust smokes more in winter, the fallen leaves like puddles, eavesdrop on people speaking, and listen to how they speak and how they express themselves. 

And then write as much as you can. 

And then finish the things you write. 

It’s easy to start a dozen different stories. Pick one, the one that speaks to you and moves you, that kicks in your gut and your heart, that makes you excited and makes you scared and makes you doubt whether you can do this. 

And then write it anyway. 

And finish it. 

It’ll be a mess, you’ll make mistakes. The most important thing is to get it all down. 

Then reward yourself with something awesome. You finished a story. Not a lot of people manage to do that. 

Lauren Beukes – Writing advice to a 13 year old

Hope your writing goes well today!

Writing advice from Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was an American essayist, novelist, editor, and professor. She was the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature and was awarded a huge array of prizes for her work. She was the author of eleven novels, seven children’s books, the writer/editor of nine non-fiction books, and countless other pieces of writing (see the bibliography here).

As Emily Temple describes on LitHub “I can’t think of another writer who is quite so universally beloved as Toni Morrison. Her work is magnificent, her legacy is unimpeachable, and she reveals her brilliance at every opportunity.” That LitHub piece includes some of Morrison’s writing advice if you’re open to a longer read.

Today I took a look at her interview with the Paris Review from 1993, where she covers so much ground on the writing life. I suggest you read the full text here. For me, the description of writing as a sort of mystical process felt so true. It often feels, when my fingers are moving across the keys, that I have no idea where the words are coming from.

I think this gives permission for you to write whatever comes to you, and to treat that as a gift. And to not take it so personally when you read it back to yourself and it hasn’t come out quite the way you’d wanted it to. It provides a helpful distance that can allow you to revisit your writing as marvellous (for existing at all) and to then edit it without (too much) self-criticism.

So here is Morrison:

Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. […]

I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination?

Toni Morrison as interviewed by the Paris Review

I also thought it was important that she encouraged young writers to listen to themselves – to avoid the shoulds or shouldn’ts that work for other people and to turn inwards. I wholeheartedly support this advice (even as I wish that I could get up before the dawn, and know I cannot).

So I hope this advice helps you give yourself permission to write, and to treat yourself to the context which makes that writing possible.