Poetry

Writing Athlone—Gabeba Baderoon’s latest poetry collection The History of Intimacy maps the small hurts of apartheid, writes Toni Giselle Stuart

Toni Giselle Stuart reviews Gabeba Baderoon’s poetry collection The History of Intimacy, which won the 2019 University of Johannesburg Main…

Africa

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s weight of whispers—Carey Baraka considers Dust, The Dragonfly Sea and a novelist’s mission to retell the ‘vile things’ of history

The Kenyan novel is not dead, writes Carey Baraka, as long as Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor keeps writing. 1. On June…

Africa

A powerful contribution towards the creation of a vitally needed counter-narrative of England—Wamuwi Mbao reviews Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s new book Manchester Happened reflects the here-and-there double consciousness of living between Uganda and England, writes Wamuwi…

Fiction

Contemplating South Africa’s coalition of traumas through the idea of lost language—Khanya Mtshali reviews Phumlani Pikoli’s Born Freeloaders

In Born Freeloaders, Phumlani Pikoli seeks to provide a meditation on how empire is constructed through language. But the language…

Fiction

A depth charge aimed at the submerged wreckage of slavery—Wamuwi Mbao reviews The Water Dancer, the debut novel by acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between Baldwin, the world and the Old South—Wamuwi Mbao reviews The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Water DancerTa-Nehisi CoatesHamish…

Fiction

Fragments, explorations and variations—Jennifer Malec reviews Zadie Smith’s debut collection of short stories, Grand Union, her most American book to date

Zadie Smith, the accomplished, experimental New Yorker—The JRB Editor Jennifer Malec reviews Grand Union. Grand UnionZadie SmithHamish Hamilton, 2019 Read an…

Poetry

A perfectly shaped raging fire of language and emotion—Lidudumalingani reviews Everything is a Deathly Flower, the debut poetry collection by Maneo Mohale

Lidudumalingani reviews Everything is a Deathly Flower by Maneo Mohale, finding it to be a succession of powerful moments. Everything…

Biography & Memoir

Jia Tolentino is a moral voice for the secular world—Khanya Mtshali reviews Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, a collection of essays that explores how we survive our late-capitalist hellscape

In Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, Jia Tolentino presents her cosmopolitan obsessions with piercing insight and authority, writes Khanya Mtshali. Trick…

Africa

American Spy reimagines the American spy, bringing gender and race into the war room—Jennifer Malec reviews Lauren Wilkinson’s new Cold War thriller

The JRB Editor Jennifer Malec reviews Lauren Wilkinson’s debut novel American Spy, a thriller that exposes the human drama that plays out…

Africa

Southern Africa throws its hat into the millennial fiction ring—Mphuthumi Ntabeni reviews The Eternal Audience of One, the debut novel by Rwandan–Namibian author Rémy Ngamije

With prose that sparkles and pops, Rémy Ngamije’s The Eternal Audience of One is a millennial novel that intricately traces…

Africa

[Temporary Sojourner] Liberia, the original African escapist fantasy—Efemia Chela reviews Wayétu Moore’s sweeping and poetic debut novel She Would Be King

Fantastic Returns and Where to Find Them—The JRB Francophone and Contributing Editor Efemia Chela travels to Liberia with Wayétu Moore’s…

Academic

The quest to establish a world-class African philosophical tradition—Sanya Osha reviews Paulin Hountondji: African Philosophy as Critical Humanism

On Paulin Hountondji’s Universalist philosophy—Sanya Osha reviews Paulin Hountondji: African Philosophy as Critical Humanism, by Franziska Dubgen and Stefan Skupien….

Africa

‘Not your traditional immigrant novel’—Efemia Chela reviews Beyond Babylon, the newly translated English debut by Somali–Italian author Igiaba Scego

In Beyond Babylon, by Igiaba Scego, migrants come to rebuild their lives in the midst of ruins, writes Francophone and…

Africa

‘A powerful commentary on displacement, and a stark condemnation of the powers that be’—Outlwile Tsipane reviews Helon Habila’s new novel, Travellers

In Travellers, Helon Habila delivers a riveting novel that unfolds as a tribute to displaced people and stands as a…

Africa

Bearing witness to unusual childhoods of privilege under oppression—Panashe Chigumadzi reviews Township Girls: The Cross-Over Generation

A significant first step in documenting the life writing of black Zimbabwean women—The JRB Contributing Editor Panashe Chigumadzi reviews Township Girls:…

Fiction

An exhilarating elegy for the slaves and storytellers of old—Lara Buxbaum reviews Patrick Chamoiseau’s wildly inventive novel The Old Slave and the Mastiff

Tracing the memory of bones, ‘a long thread of words that attempted to fulfil the universe’—Lara Buxbaum reviews The Old…

Africa

Wider than the Black Atlantic—Bongani Madondo listens in on Kwame Brathwaite’s visual sounds of Blackness, from the photo book Black Is Beautiful

Contributing Editor Bongani Madondo unmoors Kwame Brathwaite’s Black Is Beautiful from mono-dimensional notions of the Black Atlantic into a New African Globalism of…

Academic

Remember the African Renaissance? Adekeye Adebajo reviews Building Blocks Towards an African Century: Essays in Honour of Thabo Mbeki, which shines a partial light on presidential ambition and influence

Celebrating Africa’s Philosopher-King—Adekeye Adebajo reviews Building Blocks Towards an African Century: Essays in Honour of Thabo Mbeki. Building Blocks Towards an…

Non-fiction

‘Ace Magashule’s rise reveals the weakness of the centre’—Imraan Coovadia reviews Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s Gangster State

Imraan Coovadia reviews Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s new book, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture. Pieter-Louis Myburgh Gangster State: Unravelling…

Academic

Dry like steel: A wrecking ball of a book—Wamuwi Mbao reviews Adam Habib’s Rebels and Rage: Reflecting on #FeesMustFall

Wamuwi Mbao reviews Rebels and Rage: Reflecting on #FeesMustFall by Adam Habib, finding it engrossing, but ultimately unconvincing. Rebels and Rage: Reflecting on #FeesMustFall…

Academic

‘A literary con’—Hedley Twidle rereads Familiarity is the Kingdom of the Lost by Dugmore Boetie, the joker in the pack of Sophiatown-era life writing

In this excerpt from his forthcoming book on non-fiction in South African literature, Experiments with Truth, Hedley Twidle revisits Dugmore…

Essays

‘Baldwin the symbol of black transgression and global black anger is simply peerless’—Bongani Madondo on If Beale Street Could Talk, the book and Oscar-winning film

James Baldwin’s novel of half a century ago, If Beale Street Could Talk, now reissued by Penguin Random House, was…

Biography & Memoir

Illuminating a mighty poet and a total artist—Rustum Kozain reviews Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution

The JRB Poetry Editor Rustum Kozain reviews David Austin’s new book Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution, finding…

Fiction

‘There is no comfort to be had in fiction. Our history is too raw for that’—Jacob Dlamini reviews Barry Gilder’s ‘brilliant, haunting’ novel The List

The List, the debut novel by former anti-apartheid activist and uMkhonto weSizwe member Barry Gilder, is a meditation about betrayal, faith,…

Crime Fiction

‘A story that skips along breezily, even as the body count rises’—Jennifer Malec reviews My Sister, the Serial Killer, the debut novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Contrary to what the title and pulpy cover seem to suggest, My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is…