[Fiction Issue] ‘i feel like my heritage is obstinate’—Read an excerpt from Masande Ntshanga’s new book, Native Life in the Third Millennium

The JRB presents an exclusive excerpt from Native Life in the Third Millennium, a limited edition poetry and short story collection by Masande Ntshanga.

Native Life in the Third Millennium
Masande Ntshanga
Model See Media, 2020

Read the excerpt:


i wake up at work.

it’s 10 a.m. and full of office dread. processed rice cakes and cottage cheese.

editorial meetings in which i remain mute,

flashing back to weekends lined with buckets of tortured chickens and troubled friends. designer kush. jägerbomb comedowns and chlorophyll shots. mortal fear. postpunk and idm. cape town rapper suicide. dub plates and pills. native life in the third millennium.

my boss walks up to me and says “homie”; high-fives me; says “meeting in 15 stanzas”

i feel like my heritage is obstinate

that it drains me.

that a version of microsoft word could walk up to this poem and draw a red line beneath “nigga” and change it to “nigger”;

that it just did.

that sitting at my desk and pretending to work i conduct experiments on an inherited language. investigating its tonal architecture and writing to keep from killing myself.

not that i’m prone to with such hands.

but that i’m black and need to recover from the lesions borne on the hearts of all colonised men. born shattered inside the nefarious laboratories of eugenicists, to shattered progenitors, i need therapists to restore me from the nightmare imagination of whiteness to the child it made me abandon. the doctor i weep in front of tells me there’s a spook hiding inside the mirrors of black folk, grinning at their innocent children. i need to recover from a colonial ghoul and from antihuman transistor farms 

i need expensive dates. sex and to be petted and for that i need to work for these masters and to demonstrate a willingness to. i need rent and a healthcare plan for a low-income beginner household and to give back to the woman who raised me.

i need to charm the dissident children of boston brahmins

i need to write her a book that’ll be taught at harvard.


Publisher information

Model See Media announces the publication of Native Life in the Third Millennium, the debut poetry and short story collection from the winner of a Betty Trask Award and the inaugural PEN International New Voices Award.

In Native Life in the Third Millennium (2020), Masande Ntshanga’s third book after The Reactive (2014) and Triangulum (2019), a poet, philosopher and programmer wrestle with systemic oppression and themselves, navigating anomie, alienation and flashes of abundance in millennial Africa.

Intertwining poetry and prose, Ntshanga’s chapbook, written during lockdown, is ‘another genre-bending, inventive and pulsive literary work by one of Africa’s most exciting young voices.’—Pontas Agency

Limited edition, numbered and signed by the author. All proceeds go to organisations advocating for racial justice and the conservation of planet earth. Available from independent bookstores nationwide.

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