The 11 Books You Need to Read


Exams are practically over, a few more weeks left of the work year and you’re thinking of making time for all the reading you missed in the year. Whether it be on the beach in a bikini or at home with a face mask on, these books could be the best companions. The recommendations include interesting books and additional online articles that touch on violence, love, feminism and masculinity to name a few. I tried to include as many African authors as possible. I hope you enjoy them!

On Masculinity:

Moffie by Andre Carl van den Merwe

This book is about a young Afrikaans boy, Nicolas van den Swart, who is living in apartheid South Africa. He is a soft and gentle boy who doesn’t embody the hyper-masculinity that his father expects him to. However, his father is convinced that once he joins the military, he will come back a ‘real man’ not a ‘moffie’ as his father often calls him. The book is a good look at the military, masculinity and love. Seeing Nicolas grappling with his sexuality in a space that is anti queer love is heartbreaking.

Additional: Sisonke Msimang has written a bit about white masculinity and the (violent) ways it manifests in post-apartheid South Africa.

A Man Who is Not a Man by Thando Mgqolozana

This book is about identity, fitting in, culture and exploring what it means to be a young man. The book centres a young Xhosa initiate whose initiation goes completely wrong. The failure of his initiation forces him to deal with what it means to be a Xhosa man. It is an interesting book considering what happens to many young men in the name of traditional customs in this country. However, I am interested in knowing how the success of penis transplants affects how masculinity is thought of and re/constructed in different cultures.

Additional: In ‘Rape : A South African Nightmare’ by Pumla Gqola there is a chapter that goes into masculinity and how it plays out in the political and public space.

On Rape Culture

Untitled by Kgebetli Moele

Initially I was reluctant to read this book because it is written by a man, but he does an excellent job. We follow young Mokgethi as she dreams and lives and tries to finish school in a community that doesn’t value women. In the book we see how masculinity works to make living difficult for young women and girls (what Gqola describes as the female fear factory). It is beautifully written and thought provoking.

Rape: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Gqola

This is one of the most important books published in South African literary history. The book discusses how rape culture exists, how violent masculinity works to make women’s lives harder and less safe. Gqola writes about how we’ve all been socialised to think of a rape in a particular way i. e. needing to see ‘evidence’ that a person was violated – crying, torn clothes, etc.
Additional: Mia Malan wrote a harrowing piece in the Mail & Guardian about violence and economic and gendered inequalities in Diepsloot.

On Love

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s wives by Lola Shoneyin

The book is about a polygamous marriage. Baba Segi adds a new, young wife to the home. The book goes into the jealousy, manipulative and sometimes messy ways that the wives interact with one another. It also focuses on the infertility of the youngest wife who struggles to give Baba Segi a child. The ending is hilarious and shocking. Shoneyin’s writing is delightful.

Communion: A Female Search for Love by bell hooks

In this book Hooks writes about love, finding it and creating what she calls a ‘circle of love’ that doesn’t prioritize romantic love over other fulfilling loves. Hooks also writes about how women are socialised into thinking that the work of love or making relationships work is purely women’s work.


On Healing; Childhood Traumas

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

I love anything that Toni Morrison writes. In this book we see how childhood traumas can haunt us well into our adult lives. Morrison writes “what you do to a child matters because they might never forget”. It’s about parents doing what they think could be best but isn’t always so. It’s also about healing, about confronting our wounds and trying to be better adults/parents than what we had.

The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo

Here, we meet a young woman, Marubi who has a seemingly perfect life with an amazing partner. Things become weird and she isn’t feeling well, she has dreams and she can’t figure out what’s wrong. Again, we see what happens when parents try their best even though it might not be the best for their children.

On sexuality

Pornland: How porn affects our sexuality by Gail Dines

This book is about the porn industry and the harmful effects it has on (particularly) young people regarding sex and how it should be done. Dines analyses the comments on porn sites and how that could affect how men interact with women, sexually. A very insightful read.

African sexualities edited by Sylvia Tamale

This is a comprehensive book on sexuality in Africa by African scholars. There are contributions from Zethu Matabane (on in/visibility for queer people and how that influences how and where queer people move), Jane Bennett, Stella Nyanzi, Desiree Lewis (on the constructions of Black femininities and masculinities during colonialism), there is also a short story by Chimamanda Adichie that is included.
Additional: this piece interrogates how feminists are re/constructing what sexual liberation means for us in 2017 by analysing Amber Rose’s image (the one where she has pubic hair and everyone (read: men) went into a frenzy about it).

Black sexual politics by Patricia Hill Collins

This book is about how Black people can and should create more liberating sexual politics that do not exclude queer folk and that is not founded on dominating one group. The book emphasizes the importance of thinking differently when it comes to Black sexuality; that the emulation of white colonialist when it comes to Black people is not and will never be useful.