Words: Compiled by Paige Nick, Novelist and Founder of the good book appreciation society
Thank you to the reviewers at The Good Book Appreciation Society, without which, these pages would not have been possible
I thought “Digging up my past has not been easy” was a bit of an understatement from Terry Angelos, who notes that writing a book is often compared to birthing a child – and she would know. White Trash covers her descent into the ‘seedy underbelly’ of life as a 20-year-old high-class call girl in London – no easy ride. Luckily, as she wrote, she had not only her husband to ‘hold her hand and wipe away her tears,’ but midwife-publisher Melinda Ferguson who encouraged her to push hard and harder, till, I would imagine, the last drops of blood, sweat and tears were spewed and spent.
“It’s taken 32 years to feel ready to write down my story … this is my search to understand … the origins of my deviance.” So steel yourself. But the scabs at which she picks are not just those of champagne-fuelled sleaze and sex in the London of ’89. She also beats back the path to a town called Sinoia, 100 or so kilometres north of Harare where her ‘White town’ of “bright swimming towels on washing lines and obedient hedges” is in gut-wrenching contrast to the “Black location, place of ragged clothing whimpering in the wind.” So there’s guilt. After moving to South Africa, being the daughter of two teachers, there are also guys, pimply and otherwise, and the ghastliness of being the new girl, the outsider and the loud and promiscuous rebel. And as a rebel with no real cause, she opts to go to London, which is where, like a leaf on the water, she washes up on some pretty murky banks. And where, once again she is confronted with skin-colour conflict, though in a rather different way. But in a big city, when there’s no one to guide you and money is scarce, it doesn’t take long to get in with dodgy company and succumb to the call-girl calling.
To cut to the chase, eventually the rebel finds safety and salvation in God and in Steve. What happens in between, in that year in London, is eyebrow-raising stuff that takes us back to “digging up the past” not being easy. That Terry has finally got all this off her chest is laudable and testimony to the maxim, that the truth will set you free to move on. So now that it’s out there, hopefully she is liberated. But her story will surely have a sobering and cautionary effect on anyone who reads it.
Wayfarers’ Hymns by Zakes Mda, reviewed by Andie Miller
Fans of Ways of Dying and Cion, there’s a treat for you – Toloki the professional mourner is back! Spun out of one phrase in parentheses in Cion ‘(and later of Lesotho … but that is a story for another time),’ Wayfarers’ Hymns slips chronologically neatly between the first two. But this is not Toloki’s story, though he plays a large part in it.
Boy-child is a singer of hymns. He roams the hills and valleys of Lesotho, first playing his concertina, and later moving on to the accordion, singing about his sister. “Woe unto a kheleke who has no sister,” the narrator tells us, “for the best he can do is sing about his paternal aunt, his rakhali, unless there is another formidable woman in his life. Provided it is not his wife.
No self-respecting kheleke sings the praises of his wife in public, lest he invite vultures to his homestead while he rambles the land to the rhythm of the accordion and drums.”
This wandering might sound like a gentle pastoral life, but it is beset
with the gang violence between rival accordion players, many of whom moonlight as zama zamas, competing for illegal mining rights. You know
who is who from the colours of their blankets. His sister would like boy-child to follow in his father’s footsteps and get a job as a miner, a legal one. But he is not interested in any of it. He is a poet.
At the funeral of one of these accordion players, some would say the greatest singer of hymns that ever lived, in whose footsteps boy- child plans to follow, he meets Toloki. For Toloki, of course, is looking for interesting deaths to mourn, and the bulk of the deaths in South Africa he says have becomeboringly similar. They lack the drama of the violent deaths that he used to mourn during the upheavals of the political transition.