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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

(Non) fiction Friday: read an excerpt from Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming


An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era.

As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address.

With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms.

Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Read an excerpt from the chapter ‘Wife & Independence’:

IT SOUNDS A little like a bad joke, doesn’t it? What happens when a solitude-loving individualist marries an outgoing family woman who does not love solitude one bit?

The answer, I’m guessing, is probably the best and most sustaining answer to nearly every question arising inside a marriage, no matter who you are or what the issue is: You find ways to adapt. If you’re in it forever, there’s really no choice.

Which is to say that at the start of 1993, Barack flew to Bali and spent about five weeks living alone with his thoughts while working on a draft of his book Dreams from My Father, filling yellow legal pads with his fastidious handwriting, distilling his ideas during languid daily walks amid the coconut palms and lapping tide.

I, meanwhile, stayed home on Euclid Avenue, living upstairs from my mother as another leaden Chicago winter descended, shellacking the trees and sidewalks with ice.

I kept myself busy, seeing friends and hitting workout classes in the evenings. In my regular interactions at work or around town, I’d find myself casually uttering this strange new term – “my husband.”

My husband and I are hoping to buy a home. My husband is a writer finishing a book.

It was foreign and delightful and conjured memories of a man who simply wasn’t there. I missed Barack terribly, but I rationalized our situation as I could, understanding that even if we were newlyweds, this interlude was probably for the best.

He had taken the chaos of his unfinished book and shipped himself out to do battle with it. Possibly this was out of kindness to me, a bid to keep the chaos out of my view. I’d married an outside- the- box thinker, I had to remind myself. He was handling his business in what struck him as the most sensible and efficient manner, even if outwardly it appeared to be a beach vacation – a honeymoon with himself (I couldn’t help but think in my lonelier moments) to follow his honeymoon with me.

You and I, you and I, you and I. We were learning to adapt, to knit ourselves into a solid and forever form of us. Even if we were the same two people we’d always been, the same couple we’d been for years, we now had new labels, a second set of identities to wrangle. He was my husband. I was his wife. We’d stood up at church and said it out loud, to each other and to the world. It did feel as if we owed each other new things.

For many women, including myself, “wife” can feel like a loaded word. It carries a history.

If you grew up in the 1960s and 1970s as I did, wives seemed to be a genus of white women who lived inside television sitcoms – cheery, coiffed, corseted. They stayed at home, fussed over the children, and had dinner ready on the stove. They sometimes got into the sherry or flirted with the vacuum-cleaner salesman, but the excitement seemed to end there.

The irony, of course, was that I used to watch those shows in our living room on Euclid Avenue while my own stay-at-home mom fixed dinner without complaint and my own clean-cut dad recovered from a day at work. My parents’ arrangement was as traditional as anything we saw on TV.

Barack sometimes jokes, in fact, that my upbringing was like a black version of Leave It to Beaver, with the South Shore Robinsons as steady and freshfaced as the Cleaver family of Mayfield, U.S.A., though of course we were a poorer version of the Cleavers, with my dad’s blue city worker’s uniform subbing for Mr. Cleaver’s suit.

Barack makes this comparison with a touch of envy, because his own childhood was so different, but also as a way to push back on the entrenched stereotype that African Americans primarily live in broken homes, that our families are somehow incapable of living out the same stable, middle-class dream as our white neighbors.

Personally, as a kid, I preferred The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which I absorbed with fascination.

Mary had a job, a snappy wardrobe, and really great hair. She was independent and funny, and unlike those of the other ladies on TV, her problems were interesting. She had conversations that weren’t about children or homemaking. She didn’t let Lou Grant boss her around, and she wasn’t fixated on finding a husband. She was youthful and at the same time grown- up.

In the pre- pre- pre- internet landscape, when the world came packaged almost exclusively through three channels of network TV, this stuff mattered. If you were a girl with a brain and a dawning sense that you wanted to grow into something more than a wife, Mary Tyler Moore was your goddess.

And here I was now, twenty-nine years old, sitting in the very same apartment where I’d watched all that TV and consumed all those meals dished up by the patient and selfless Marian Robinson. I had so much – an education, a healthy sense of self, a deep arsenal of ambition – and I was wise enough to credit my mother, in particular, with instilling it in me.

She’d taught me how to read before I started kindergarten, helping me sound out words as I sat curled like a kitten in her lap, studying a library copy of Dick and Jane. She’d cooked for us with care, putting broccoli and Brussels sprouts on our plates and requiring that we eat them. She’d hand sewn my prom dress, for God’s sake. The point was, she’d given diligently and she’d given everything. She’d let our family define her. I was old enough now to realize that all the hours she gave to me and Craig were hours she didn’t spend on herself.

My considerable blessings in life were now causing a kind of psychic whiplash.

I’d been raised to be confident and see no limits, to believe I could go after and get absolutely anything I wanted. And I wanted everything. Because, as Suzanne would say, why not? I wanted to live with the hat-tossing, independent-career-woman zest of Mary Tyler Moore, and at the same time I gravitated toward the stabilizing, self-sacrificing, seemingly bland normalcy of being a wife and mother.

I wanted to have a work life and a home life, but with some promise that one would never fully squelch the other. I hoped to be exactly like my own mother and at the same time nothing like her at all. It was an odd and confounding thing to ponder.

Could I have everything? Would I have everything? I had no idea.

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Launch – And Then Mama Said… by Tumi Morake (15 November)

Tumi Morake modelled her public persona on her mother, a charming and contentious woman who used her big, bold voice to say what others were afraid to utter. It’s the personality that Tumi took on stage in the mostly male space of stand-up comedy, and the one that gave her the courage to join a white, Afrikaans radio station and comment about apartheid on air.

But there’s only so much you can find out about Tumi from the stage, the screen and the internet. And Then Mama Said… is the voice of Tumi in private, as well as a behind-thescenes perspective of a pioneering South African star who has been both deeply loved and viciously hated by her audiences.

Tumi gets frank about the race row at Jacaranda FM; the Jaguar car accident that cyber bullies said she deserved; the body-shaming she endured on the set of Our Perfect Wedding; and her tumultuous relationship with her beloved husband. Throughout her story, she carries the voice of her mother, and with it the indispensable life lessons that made her who she is today.

Tumi Morake is an award-winning South African stand-up comedienne, television host and actress. She also wears the hats of TV producer and writer. Morake cut her teeth as a writer on SABC’s flagship sitcoms and broke into television acting through those channels. She is dubbed as one of South Africa’s queens of comedy, headlining on local and international stages. She is a mother of three and wife of one. Morake has dabbled in radio and remains one of South Africa’s most sought-after acts. She also sits on the board of directors at Summat Training Institute and St. Aquinas College.

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Bekendstelling: Stroomop deur Harald Pakendorf (10 Mei)

Hoekom bel ’n boosaardige eerste minister ’n koerantredakteur skuins na sonop by sy huis? Waarom wil ’n kabinetsminister ’n verslaggewer met die vuiste bydam? En hoe kry ’n Afrikaanse koerant dit reg om tydens die apartheidsjare volledig oor ANC-beleidstandpunte te rapporteer?

Harald Pakendorf beantwoord dié vrae, en nog vele meer, in sy herinneringstog deur ’n onstuimige tydperk in Suid-Afrika se geskiedenis. Die grootkoppe van apartheid kon hierdie “liberale” redakteur van ‘Oggendblad’ (1972–1979) en ‘Die Vaderland’ (1980–1986) met moeite voor hulle oë verdra. Pakendorf moes John Vorster en PW Botha se woedebuie telkemale trotseer.

Vandag sal lesers hul koppe in ongeloof skud oor die scenario’s wat tydens apartheid se hoogbloei in die voorkamers van politieke mag afgespeel het. Maar vir die politieke base van destyds was Harald Pakendorf sy tyd ver vooruit. Só ver dat hulle hom sonder meer uit sy redakteurstoel verwyder het. ’n Fassinerende, persoonlike terugblik wat lesers sal boei.


  • Datum: Donderdag, 10 Mei 2018
  • Tyd: 6:00 NM vir 6:30 NM
  • Plek: Love Books, Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, Rustenburgstraat 53, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Gasspreker: Anita Visser
  • RSVP:


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Erich Rautenbach passes away in Canada

Erich Rautenbach pictured in Cape Town. Image: Erich Rautenbach CTHS Scholarship.

Erich Rautenbach, author of the South African memoir The Unexploded Boer, died in Vancouver, Canada on April 18th due to an aggressive relapse of leukemia. He was 63 years old.

Erich was born June 16, 1954 in Swakopmund, Namibia and grew up in Cape Town, leaving South Africa as a fugitive at the age of 21 after escaping from police custody. After some months in Europe and the Middle East as an undocumented refugee, he arrived in Canada where he eventually settled, raising four sons with his wife Mary Ann McKenzie, and returning to South Africa and Namibia as much as possible. He was planning a permanent move back to his home country when his cancer returned.

The Unexploded Boer, described as “a wild story of rebellion and retribution”, was published in 2011 by Zebra Press/Random House. It vividly recreated the hippy/glam subculture of 1970s Cape Town and followed Erich as he tried anything to avoid conscription into the South Africa army, leading to incarceration in infamous prisons including John Voster Square and The Fort. It received strong critical acclaim.

In Erich’s honour, the family is planning to create an annual bursary to be given to a Cape Town High School student who shows promise as a writer. Funds are being raised in Canada and South Africa through a Go Fund Me campaign:

The Unexploded Boer

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Launch: The Love Diary of a Zulu Boy by Bhekisisa Mncube (25 April)

‘The book goes beyond being a narrative of forbidden love. It’s a potent alchemy, a swirling together of matters that are the hallmark of serious literature: good and evil, sex, love, friendship, morality, happiness and suffering, heroes and villains… and, of course, the old South African chestnuts – race and identity.’ – Fred Khumalo

The Love Diary of a Zulu Boy is by turns erotic, romantic, tragic and comic. Inspired by the real-life drama of a romance between a Zulu boy and an Englishwoman, the book consists of various interrelated short stories on interracial relationships in modern-day South Africa.

As the author reflects on love across the colour line, it triggers memories of failed affairs and bizarre experiences: love spells, toxic masculinity, infidelity, sexually transmitted diseases, a phantom pregnancy, sexless relationships, threesomes and prostitution, to name but a few.

A unique book for the South African market, The Love Diary of a Zulu Boy is written with an honesty rarely encountered in autobiographical writing.

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 25 April 2018
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Iman Rappetti
  • RSVP:

    Book Details

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Kom geniet ’n Boek en Koek-viering van Lugkasteel deur Annelie Botes in Pretoria

Uitnodiging na die bekendstelling van Lugkasteel deur Annelie Botes

LugkasteelGraffiti Zambezi Junction en Penguin Random House nooi jou graag na die bekendstelling van Annelie Botes se jongste boek, Lugkasteel.

Die geleentheid vind plaas op Donderdag, 1 Desember by O’Galito Zambezi Junction en begin om 9:00 vir 9:30. Kaartjies kos R70 per persoon en sluit in heerlike versnaperinge.

In Lugkasteel vertel die gesoute skrywer die verhaal van haar destydse pos in Engeland as goewernante van vier onhebbelike bloubloed-seuntjies.

Moenie dit misloop nie!



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Cover revealed for Marita van der Vyver’s new novel to be published early 2017

Marita van der Vyver’s new novel to be published early 2017Marita van der Vyver’s new novel to be published early 2017
Swemlesse vir 'n meerminA Fountain in FranceOlinosters op die dakDie coolste ouma op aardeWinter Food in ProvenceWinterkos in Provence

Penguin Random House will be publishing Marita van der Vyver’s 13th novel, You Lost Me, early in 2017 in English and Afrikaans.

The author, who lives in France, will be in South Africa to promote the novel in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria in March and May 2017. Readers will also have the opportunity to see her in Stellenbosch during Woordfees, and at the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

You Lost Me is the story of Willem Prins, a disillusioned South African writer who, after little success, finds himself in Paris to promote an erotic novel he wrote under a pseudonym – to his great embarrassment. It’s here that he meets Jackie, a young South African who works in the city as au pair. The two of them happen to be together on the night that the Paris terror attacks strike.

You Lost Me is contemporary and thrilling; wickedly funny yet poignant. The novel reinforces Van der Vyver’s position as one of the country’s best-loved writers since the publication of her first novel, Entertaining Angels.

Related stories:

Photograph by Robert Hamblin for Vrouekeur

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Annelie Botes herroep ou herinneringe in Lugkasteel (Plus: Wen 1 van 10 eksemplare!)

LugkasteelLugkasteel deur Annelie Botes is nou beskikbaar by Penguin:

In Sabbatsreis vertel Annelie Botes hoe sy in 2004 blindelings op ’n vliegtuig geklim het om in Engeland ’n ouma te gaan soek wat sy kon oppas. Om haar skuld te betaal. Vir ’n hellejaar (ook met heelwat hemelse oomblikke!) word sy Granny se hoeder.

Maar genoeg is selde genoeg. Kwalik ses maande nadat sy teruggekom het Baai toe, vlieg sy wéér Engeland toe. Dié keer as die goewernante van vier onhebbelike bloubloed-seuntjies. En, soos Aspoestertjie, bevind sy haar in ’n grillerige ou kasteelhuis, en sy is net ’n kasteelbediende. Sy ly honger; sy verkluim. Sy moet haar karige leefruimte deel met die wandelende gees van ’n vrou wat lankal oorlede is, maar steeds snags in die kasteelgange rondloop.

Om vir haar ’n wegkruipplek te skep, rig sy ’n antieke Mercedes-Benz vol muisneste, wat verlate in ’n plaat onkruid staan, in as haar heiligdom. Droomplek. Dinkplek. Huilplek.

Tien jaar later sit sy by haar ou bruin lessenaar en rol die kamera terug na daardie tyd. Bekyk die glasskoentjies wat elke mens langs die pad verloor. Lugkastele wat tuimel. Alles net swaanveertjies in die winterwind. Tog, ondanks ons stukkende vlerke, leer ons vlieg. Hoër en verder as wat ons ooit kon droom.

Soms. Soms nie.

Oor die outeur

Annelie Botes woon in die Oos-Kaap en skryf in Engels en Afrikaans. ‘n Groot aantal boeke het al uit haar pen verskyn waarvan menigde vertaal is. Raaiselkind (ook in Engels beskikbaar as Riddle Child) het in 2003 verskyn en is aangewys as voorgeskrewe boek in die Wes-Kaap.


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Tien gelukkige lesers kan elk ‘n kans staan om ‘n kopie van Lugkasteel te wen. Slegs een inskrywing per persoon word toegelaat. Voltooi die kompetisievorm voor 18 November 2016 om in te skryf:


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Don’t miss the launch of Not Without A Fight by Helen Zille at Exclusive Books Hyde Park

Invitation to the launch of Not Without A Fight

Not Without A Fight: The AutobiographyPenguin Random House and Exclusive Books invite you to the launch of Helen Zille’s new book, Not Without A Fight: The Autobiography.

The event will take place on Thursday, 27 October, at Exclusive Books Hyde Park.

Zille will be in conversation with Ferial Haffajee.

See you there!

Event Details

Book Details

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Helen Zille’s long-awaited autobiography: One of the most fascinating political stories of our time

Not Without A Fightin Not Without A Fight: The Autobiography, Helen Zille takes the reader back to her humble family origins, her struggle with anorexia as a young woman, her early career as a journalist for the Rand Daily Mail, and her involvement with the End Conscription Campaign and the Black Sash. She documents her early days in the Democratic Party and the Democratic Alliance, at a time when the party was locked in a no-holds-barred factional conflict. And she chronicles the intense political battles to become mayor of Cape Town, leader of the DA and premier of the Western Cape, in the face of dirty tricks from the ANC and infighting within her own party.


Helen Zille's long-awaited autobiography: One of the most fascinating political stories of our time


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