The Johannesburg Review of Books Vol. 6, Issue 5 (November 2022)

Shayera Dark • Wamuwi Mbao • Dimakatso Sedite • Carey Baraka • Karen Jennings • Tjawangwa Dema • Karin Schimke • Namwali Serpell • Tsitsi Dangarembga • Jim Pascual Agustin • Abdourahman A Waberi • Patric Tariq Mellet • Kneo Mokgopa • Juby Mayet • Kwasi Konadu • Victor Dlamini • Jennifer Malec

Welcome to the fifth issue of Volume 6 of The Johannesburg Review of Books!

In this issue, Shayera Dark reviews Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s debut novel When We Were Birds—one part magical realism, one part crime thriller, one part romance, rendered entirely in patois; Wamuwi Mbao finds Elif Batuman’s Either/Or a new and worthy entry into the well-populated gallery of erudite books about people learning how to live in the world; and Dimakatso Sedite considers Teamhw SbonguJesu’s debut collection of poetry, Bury Me Naked, which delivers a conscientious, humorous, much-needed lesson in a poetics of voice that is sure of itself.

Carey Baraka ruminates on parties with a purpose—the influence of literary get-togethers on Kenya’s writing scene. Karin Schimke visits Paulet House, home of the much-appreciated Jakes Gerwel Foundation writer’s residency.

Booker-longlisted author Karen Jennings was in conversation with The JRB Editor Jennifer Malec as part of Wits University’s 2022 centenary celebrations. Read the conversation in this issue, and listen to a world-exclusive reading from Jennings’s new novel, Crooked Seeds.

In our poetry section, we present new work from Tjawangwa Dema’s collection an/other pastoral—out now in South Africa.

In our survey of new fiction, read an exclusive excerpt from Namwali Serpell’s highly anticipated new novel The Furrows, and dip into Why Do You Dance When You Walk by Djiboutian novelist Abdourahman A Waberi, winner of a 2021 English PEN Translates Award and now available in English.

We also present an exclusive extract from Tsitsi Dangarembga’s powerful new collection of essays Black and Female; ‘Various Histories’, a thoughtful biographical piece by the poet Jim Pascual Agustin; an excerpt from Patric Tariq Mellet’s new autobiography Cleaner’s Boy: A Resistance Road to a Liberated Life; a sample from Freedom Writer, the memoir of the late legendary journalist Juby Mayet; and a section of the Introduction of the significant new book Many Black Women of this Fortress: Graça, Mónica and Adwoa, Three Enslaved Women of Portugal’s African Empire by Kwasi Konadu.

In short fiction, read ‘Siyawa (What Would Happen if Madiba Returned?)’ by Kneo Mokgopa, from the new collection Our Move Next: Digital Folklore.

From our Photo Editor Victor Dlamini this month, a portrait of Karen Jennings.

Here’s the complete breakdown of Vol. 6, Issue 5, which you will also find on our issue archive page:


Creative non-fiction




Fiction excerpts

Short fiction

New non-fiction



The JRB Daily

Cover image: Joburg clouds/Jennifer Malec

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