The Johannesburg Review of Books Vol. 3, Issue 11

Wamuwi Mbao • Richard Poplak • Bernardine Evaristo • Siphiwo Mahala Zadie Smith Efemia Chela Lidudumalingani • Mmatshilo Motsei • Adekeye Adebajo • Brendan Joyce • Victor Dlamini • Jennifer Malec



Welcome to the eleventh issue of Volume 3 of The Johannesburg Review of Books.

In this issue, Wamuwi Mbao reviews The Water Dancer, the debut novel by acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, calling it ‘a depth charge aimed at the submerged wreckage of Southern slavery’. Richard Poplak reviews The Night Trains, the new book by historian Charles van Onselen, while The JRB Editor Jennifer Malec reviews Grand Union, the first short story collection by Zadie Smith.

In our Temporary Sojourner series, The JRB Francophone and Contributing Editor Efemia Chela travels to Ethiopia with Maaza Mengiste’s novel The Shadow King, while Lidudumalingani turns to poetry with a review of Everything is a Deathly Flower by Maneo Mohale, a ‘perfectly shaped raging fire of language and emotion’.

In our featured interview, Siphiwo Mahala chats to Jennifer Malec about self-publishing his new book, Red Apple Dreams, and why he believes short stories are the future.

We’re pleased to feature an exclusive excerpt from Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, co-winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, as well as excerpts from Smith’s Grand Union, and Mahala’s Red Apple Dreams.

Mmatshilo Motsei pays tribute to literary gian Es’kia Mphahlele in his centenary year.

Adekeye Adebajo addresses the once-unthinkable question ‘Was Gandhi a racist?’, as the 150th anniversary of his birth is marked around the globe.

In our poetry corner, dip into work by Brendan Joyce, from his new chapbook, Character Limit.

For something a little different, we present an excerpt from Meanwhile … a beautiful new graphic novel celebrating everyday queer life in Southern and East Africa.

Non-fiction fans may enjoy finding out more about Yeoville and the ‘mythology of transitional Johannesburg’ in an excerpt from the new book Politics and Community-Based Research: Perspectives from Yeoville Studio, Johannesburg.

On a more musical note, read Marlon Swai‘s essay on how Hip Hop is producing a new generation of readers and writers in a world that operates in diverse literary forms, in an excerpt from Neva Again: Hip Hop Art, Activism and Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa.

Finally, from our Photo Editor Victor Dlamini this month, we hope you enjoy his original portraits of Ekow Duker and Lerato Tshabalala.

Here’s the complete breakdown of Vol. 3, Issue 11, which you will also find on our issue archive page:






Book excerpts



The JRB Daily

Header image: ‘The child is free’, Credit: Shanna Miles for Yeoville Studio, excerpted from the new book Politics and Community-Based Research: Perspectives from Yeoville Studio, Johannesburg

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