The Johannesburg Review of Books Vol. 6, Issue 2 (May 2022)

Wamuwi Mbao • CA Davids • Yewande Omotoso • Lidudumalingani • Efemia Chela • Wairimũ Mũrĩithi • Masiyaleti Mbewe • Carey Baraka • Eckard Smuts • Donald Parenzee • Michael Gardiner • Adekeye Adebajo • Ema Babikwa • Ntombizikhona Valela • Niq Mhlongo • Siphiwo Mahala • Jennifer Malec • Victor Dlamini • Tymon Smith

Welcome to the second issue of Volume 6 of The Johannesburg Review of Books—our fiftieth edition!

We published the first issue of The JRB on 1 May, 2017, and in the five years since have published forty-nine more, featuring 425 contributors from Africa and beyond. Click here to read our Publisher Ben Williams’s reflection The JRB’s half decade of literary endeavour—and to see the awesome list of all our contributors so far. Here’s to the next fifty!

This month, Wamuwi Mbao reviews Culture and Liberation: Exile Writings, 1966–1985, the first dedicated collection of Alex La Guma’s exile writing; Masiyaleti Mbewe reflects on Toni Morrison’s Recitatif, now published in a standalone edition for the first time; while Wairimũ Murĩithi enters the world of Things They Lost, the debut novel from 2014 Caine Prize winner Okwiri Oduor. Michael Gardiner reviews Letters to Lionel, a series of letters written to the late poet, novelist and teacher Lionel Abrahams by his wife, Jane Fox.

Adekeye Adebajo delves into the storm of controversy surrounding claims about the extent to which Wole Soyinka was supported by the CIA, as outlined in Caroline Davis’s African Literature and the CIA: Networks of Authorship and Publishing, and the Nobel laureate’s forceful response, a slim volume titled Trumpism in Academe: The Example of Caroline Davis and Spahring Partners.

Elsewhere in the issue, Carey Baraka speaks to Khadija Abdalla Bajaber and reviews her award-winning debut novel, The House of Rust; CA Davids chats to Contributing Editor Efemia Chela about her sweeping new novel How to Be a Revolutionary; and Yewande Omotoso chats to Editor Jennifer Malec about questions, answers, and her new novel, An Unusual Grief.

Guest City Editor Lidudumalingani continues his series of reflections on Johannesburg with a piece on the fragility and force of the city.

In new fiction, we feature ‘Home™’, an artful new spec-fic short story from Eckard Smuts.

We are also pleased to share new fiction from Ema Babikwa, from the forthcoming anthology Something in the Water: New Short Fiction from Africa; an excerpt from City Editor Niq Mhlongo’s new short story collection For You, I’d Steal a Goat; and a sampler from Yewande Omotoso’s new novel, An Unusual Grief, to read alongside our interview.

For fans of non-fiction, excerpts from Siphiwo Mahala’s new biography Can Themba: The Making and Breaking of the Intellectual Tsotsi and Now You Know How Mapetla Died: The Story of a Black Consciousness Martyr by JRB contributor Zikhona Valela are sure to enthral.

From our Photo Editor Victor Dlamini this month, a portrait of Lauren Beukes, whose time-travelling thriller The Shining Girls made its international television debut this week.

And while you’re reading issue #50, listen to ‘Playlist #13’, compiled by Tymon Smith.

Lastly, we feature four poems by Donald Parenzee, who passed away recently, as well as a reflection on his life and work by Mark Espin.

Here’s the complete breakdown of Vol. 6, Issue 2, which you will also find on our issue archive page:




City Editor



Fiction excerpts

New non-fiction




The JRB Daily

Cover image: White Cosmos means cold winter/Jennifer Malec

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