The Book Club Blog

Books for any occasion and other life stuff

{Homegrown} The SA Author Campaign IV

Raashida Khan is a self published author.
Her books include:
 Mirror Cracked– this won the Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Award two years ago (is also LBQT so its perfect for Pride Month AND breaks down barriers with writing about mental health in the Muslim community),
Happy Birthday, Raashi (a poetry anthology) and her latest
Your Voice, My Strength. None of which I have yet read but after reading the synopsis of Mirror Cracked it is now officially on my TBR list.
Raashida contacted me after having read and enjoyed the {HOMEGROWN} author interview series with the hopes of contributing her own Q & A. As we all know I am a huge fan of promoting and sharing SA writers, I agreed to showcase a new to me author.
Diversity is key in reading, where would be the fun in just reading the same old same old. Climb out of those comfort zones, and try something new, there are also some recommendations in the ‘authors that inspire me’ question. (I also adore the cover of her latest book!}
So without further ado, please enjoy the latest in our {homegrown} SA author Q & A.
– Do you have a specific routine that you follow when you sit down to write, or are you able to sit and write at any time?
It depends on what I am writing. If it’s a novel, there is a loose routine, but as long as I set a target for a day, then that helps. If it’s poetry or a blog, there is no real routine as it when i’m moved/inspired enough to write something.
– What book/s are you currently reading?
‘Made in Chatsworth’ by Kiru Naidoo and ‘Time and Time Again’ by Ben Elton. My reading is a bit slower as it Ramadaan this month, so I have less time.
– Which SA authors have inspired you in your own writing?
Always a tough one to answer as we have such a wealth of local talent. Rayda Jacobs, Alan Paton, Achmat Dangor, Zakes Mda, Fred Khumalo, and many others. I love SA writers and try and support them where I can.
– Did you always have a passion to write a book or did it / they stealthily creep up on you?
Yes, I have been saying I would write since I was a child but only started seriously about five years ago.
– Which has been your favourite book to write so far?
My first novel, ‘Mirror Cracked’. Writing this book made me recognise my passion – I put my heart and soul into it. The book really helped me to identify and engage with themes that are close to my heart. The characters were real to me and I loved them all. It also taught me so much about writing and myself and cemented my love for writing.
– What were your favourite books as a child?
I enjoyed the mystery books of Enid Blyton and school-based stories.
– To date, what is the worst book you have ever read, and why?
In all honesty, I’ve not hated any book. Every book has some merit and teaches its readers something. Generally, if a book does not grab me in the first 50-100 pages, I move on. There are too many books to read and too little time to persevere with a book that is not working for me. This is rare though, especially now that I write too. I understand and appreciate what goes into writing a book so don’t give up on them very quickly.
If there is any book that disappointed me, it was ‘The Ministry of Happiness’ by Arudhati Roy. She is one of my favourite authors and her first book, ‘The God of Small Things’ was one of the books that made me want to write.  I’ve also enjoyed her socio-political writings and admire her as an activist. Unfortunately, for me, this book was all over the place. There is much to be said about simplicity in writing. I felt this novel was trying to do too much – it had an interesting plot and characters but the social commentary detracted from it rather than enhancing it.
– Do you think SA women writers and authors are treated differently to their male counterparts in the publishing world?
I’m not sure about that. I would like to think that we are treated equally. If you are referring to traditional publishing, I can’t comment. As a self-published author, I think an author gets as much recognition/airtime as he/she works for. It’s all up to the individual.
– If there was one piece of advice you could give to aspiring SA authors, what would it be?
If writing is your passion, write in spite of the challenges. Stay positive. Read widely, participate in local author/reading groups (on social media and in person), attend book festivals and support other local authors wherever you can.
– If we weren’t in lockdown and you could have any authors around your table for dinner, who would they be and why?
Zukiswa Wanner – she has an amazing energy and is committed to supporting local and African.
Keletso Mopai – she has an incredible way with words. She weaves universal themes into her proudly local stories with artful finesse, yet her writing is so accessible.
Kopano Matlwa – her stories and style of writing are unique yet believable. I’ve seen her at a book festival, where I was stuck by her beauty, grace and humility.
I think I could learn much from any of these inspiring authors.
– What is one item you have either made/ tried/ learn’t while being in lockdown, and was it successful?
I cut my husband’s hair. Twice! Yes, I think it turned out well otherwise I wouldn’t have been allowed near him with a scissors a second time.
– While the lockdown was fairly sudden, and our new normal sprang up quickly, what has been a silver lining to you during this time?
I try to be grateful and appreciate what I have been given as I know I am blessed. The lockdown really helped me to take nothing for granted and to remember to pay more than lip service to giving thanks. So many others have suffered incredible hardships and have had to make sacrifices in this trying time.
We have all had time to realise that we miss certain things or places during this time, what is yours?
I miss my walks in the parks – I love being out in nature, the freedom to just go out when I want and visiting/meeting friends and family, especially. The connections we have with each other still continue digitally, but it’s not the same as being in the same room with someone and hugging him or her.
– What is one pet hate in your current situation with who you live with? Be it a partner, child or animal?
Honestly, no one. I’m quite lucky, I guess. We are a family of 6 (no pets) and mostly get along. It helps that the house is fairly big and we each have our own space as well as a garden, so it’s easier for us.
I love how often Enid Blyton shows up on this Q&A, I think most of us have a soft spot for these children’s books. Thank you so much Raashida for getting in touch, its been great to read your answers, and I look forward to reading your books.
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Sea Star Summer by Sally Partridge (and a trip down memory lane)

Sally Partridge is a new to me SA author who writes YA fiction. I discovered her via nbpublishers advertising her {online} book launch, which I subsequently joined.  This was at the start of Lockdown and her book has now been published as an ebook. Sally approached me to participate in her Insta Book Blog Tour of her latest book Sea Star  Summer which I jumped at the chance to do, celebrating and sharing SA authors is my ‘thing’ right?

I received a copy of her book which I read in a couple of days. It is an easy read, one I thoroughly enjoyed (now, I want to read all her books), what I wasn’t expecting was a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Sea Star Summer

The Blurb:

All sixteen-year-old Naomi wants to do over December is read books and avoid other people. Jeffreys Bay promises the perfect drama-free holiday. But when she encounters the strange and imaginative Elize on the beach, everything changes. Elize, however, isn’t the first to notice the awkward, red-haired newcomer and soon Naomi finds herself caught between a blue-eyed local surfer and Elize’s dark and mysterious brother. But what if Naomi is drawn to someone altogether different . . . 

Not only does this book tackle the  idea of ‘normal’,  it also tackles sexuality, feminism and our idea of societies expectations. If you are participating in Pride month – June, this is a perfect book to read. Set in Jeffrey’s Bay, our main character is a geeky red haired loner who discovers she prefers the company of her new friend Eliza, to the completely different male counterparts who find her particularly enticing Marius and Daniel.

One section in the novel shows a particularly dark side of one of the young boys who is rather keen on Naomi, and sadly that is a very real factor in our society. I can only thank the author for not going down that path.

I love how Naomi is portrayed and how this holiday gives her the opportunity to explore her sexuality even when she wasn’t expecting to, when all she thought she wanted was to hide away and read.  This book was a tender look at love, acceptance, imagination, home, family and Sally managed to bring all those elements together with ease.  This apt coming of age novel is set in Jeffery’s Bay, South Africa and a book set in my home country, with our own particular slang is always a pleasure to read.

Sea Star Summer was particularly reminiscent of myself at her age.  Young, geeky, nose constantly in a book, and then life happened. The stirrings of young love, tender kisses, coming out – or not- silent to those who care the most but expect a normal of their own making. Oh, it was a nostalgic wander down my past as I read this book. First kisses, the delight, the fear, the angst, the wondering what comes next. The indecision, the am I, aren’t I , the labels. The exploration of sexuality. While the ending of Naomi’s story is only her beginning, I love that the author didn’t label her, allowing the character to be who she imagined herself to be.

It’s not often a book provokes nostalgia in me, but this had me digging through old photographs, old diaries remembering my 20year old self, remembering past girlfriends, those first kisses. Remembering how young and inexperienced and naive I was. How our life paths ramble along in ways we don’t expect, friendships that make us, that change us. How fear of being different can limit our lives in ways we least expect and how hitting our forties gives an insight we really don’t have in our twenties.

I would recommend you read this book. It may not ignite any sort of nostalgia within you but it is a book that shows that normal can mean many things, and for any young person wondering if girls liking girls, or boys liking boys, or any which way you look at it is ok, this confirms that it is.

Thank you Sally for a delightful read, a wander down my memory lane, and to NBpublishers for the review e-book copy. Go, get yourself a copy at your local bookstore and give it a read. Then, like me, go in search of more of Sally’s books. ( I think we need Sally to do join our {Homegrown} Q&A series don’t you?)

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