Interview with Rehana Rossouw

NEW-TIMES-COVIn late 2017, I had the opportunity to chat to Rehana about her latest book, New Times. The thought provoking novel was one of my top reads of the year, and interviewing her was a pure joy.

Highlights from the piece published in the Sunday Times on the 7th of January:

On Mental health and violence:

Mental health, violence, and PTSD thread through the narrative, from the newsroom, to Ali’s mother, to Ali herself. “I do believe our nation is scarred by violence,” Rossouw says. But while New Times may be set in the past, it is also a caution to the new generation. Rossouw explains, “The book was started in a fit of anger with the #FeesMustFall activists who blithely believed that their violence was justified because they had to ensure we all understood that Mandela was a sell-out. I wanted to warn them that violence is not a toy and could cause lasting damage.”

On her work as an activist:
“I am fighting all over again as a novelist.”


New Times by Rehana Rossouw

NEW-TIMES-COV– African time strolls at a leisurely pace, meandering down a time zone that’s several hours behind the rest of the globe, pausing to meet and greet everyone in its path as it makes its tardy way to the next appointment. It can be so very charming…It can also hold people back – when you are oppressed and going nowhere you never rush. –

– Newsrooms are the last refuge of society’s weirdos. –

– Sometimes it is hard to understand the choices people make when they’re finally free to have what they want. –

– People don’t greet at The New Times, the white people in particular. They drop their heads and stare at the floor like the answer to the meaning of life is carved there when they hear my hello. –

– Deadlines aggravate me; especially the ones that creep up fast and force me to file my stories before I’m convinced there’s nothing more I can do to improve them. –

– How are we supposed to build a better life for all when we’re all so fucked up? When all we know is killing and torture and racial oppression? It’s only been a year but I can already see this government is making some of the same mistakes. –

– When will people realise they can’t eat reconciliation? –

New Times via Jacana

My interview with the author on behalf of the Sunday Times

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

30070018.jpg– Hell was a place of remembering, each beautiful moment passed through the mind’s eye until it fell to the ground like a rotten mango, perfectly useless, uselessly perfect. –

– Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves. –

– You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, Now I will remove my knife slowly, so let things be easy and clean, let there be no mess. There will always be blood. –

– Harlem felt like a big black band with so many heavy instruments, the city stage was collapsing. –

– If we go to the white man for school, we will just learn the way the white man wants us to learn. We will come back and build the country the white man wants us to build. One that continues to serve them. –

– So when you study history, you must always ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. –

Homegoing, published by Penguin Random House

My interview with the author on behalf of SSDA:

Amy Heydenrych interviews Rachel Zadok & I

Amy Heydenrych from Bookish recently talked to Rachel Zadok and I about Short Story Day Africa and our novels.

5. What excites you most about the current literary landscape? 

Rachel: Everybody who is part of trying to make a workable publishing industry. I love indie publishers who are unafraid to publish work that would give western publishers palpitations. Cassava Republic and Modjaji Books are my top two, and Bibi, Emma and Colleen are just the most inspiring people in the industry currently. Online journals top of my list are Saraba Magazine and The Jalada Collective, who are doing things that make my mouth hang open with admiration. Then Writivism is running mentorship programmes that make me cry with joy.  I love the spec fic community that is finding its feet and planting them firmly in African soil, look up Omenana AfroSF anthologies, Bloody Parchment – if you join the African Fantasy Reading Group on Facebook you’ll discover a brave new world.

Tiah: I read an article where a writer quipped something along the lines that African writing right now is like France in the 1920s. There is so much happening, from JALADA, to Writivism, to KWANI and all the indie publishers springing up and making their mark. Look at the Etisalat prize, their coveted shortlist of three titles has included books from indie publishers such as Modjaji and Jacana – African fiction written, edited and published in Africa and succeeding. Thus, it is a huge privilege to be part of this dynamic African writing scene.

Click to read the entire interview

The Domestication of Munachi by Ifesinachi O. Okpagu

29487399.jpg– Mother liked to reel out English words from the dusty corners of the dictionary; the kind of words that even the Queen of England would marvel at. –

– It took me years to figure out that the main characters of her story had strong similarities with the writer, but when I pointed it out she laughed at me and denied it. –

– Here in Lagos, I might as well walk naked for all they care. Life just moved on smoothly around me. Nobody cared that my heart was drumming like a crazy night dancer. Nobody cared that my palms felt like I had slicked them with groundnut oil before leaving the house. –

– “Men,” Nkoli spat. “They are our tickets to the golden life, but they can use you like newspaper for wrapping roasted corn.” –

–”You see, my dear,” she said. “There are no rules when it comes to life, but there are rules when it comes to the heart.” –

My interview with the author:

Chasing the Tails of my Father’s Cattle by Sindiwe Magona


– That for the heart to sing, it must put away all that taints it: those punishments meted out by a life lived, the grievances, the indignities, in all their manifestations, that are our lot. –

–There are times when only the vast ocean of timelessness can wash away sorrow, when its unceasing agitation, ageless roar and blinding blueness are the sole slave for a wounded spirit. –

– A child is a child is a child, no matter the gender. –

– Women are encouraged, if not coerced, to follow the rules society has set for them. –

– Husbands returning from mines wanted, expected docile wives, docile as the youthful maidens they had married and soon left. But a wife left husbandless soon gets used to do things her way, getting on with the business of getting on. –

My interview with the author:

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

WomanNxtDoor– To discover that if she remembered while walking, the memories were bearable. –

– Later, when Peter would tease Hortensia for her love of beautiful things, what he couldn’t have known was that he’d been that for her once too – a beautiful thing, perfect and in need of nothing. –

– It saddened her that what she considered the best thing about herself was a puzzle to her husband. –

– Hating, after all, was a drier form of drowning. –

– Sometimes you move on and you remain sick, and then what is the point of going forward? We must get better too. –

My interview with the author

Rehana Rossouw, What Will People Say

Rehana Rossouw, What Will People Say

– Her childhood was ending and it was time to learn to be a woman. The lessons started with Mummy teaching her to iron shirts. –

– He still wasn’t sure what they could do against gangsters, the cockroaches that crawled out of the walls after the kitchen lights went off. The watch members’ torches cast a light on their activities, but it was dim. –

– He understood now why people got gerook. It made a boring life seem interesting for a while. –

– [The struggle] were like converted people who went around asking everybody if they had accepted the Lord into their hearts. Only they said Lenin. –

– Making love was the word in Mills & Boon romances, always at the end of the book. Fucking sounded better. – Continue reading