Book review: ‘When Secrets Bec

‘When Secrets Become Stories: Women Speak Out’. Image via Twitter @brittlepaper.

Book review: ‘When Secrets Become Stories’ gives GBV survivors a voice

‘When Secrets Become Stories’ is a must-read collection of essays that is a vibrant celebration of female strength told through the stories of the survivors of gender-based violence.

Book review: ‘When Secrets Bec

‘When Secrets Become Stories: Women Speak Out’. Image via Twitter @brittlepaper.

As Women’s Month in South Africa is drawing to a close, let’s continue to celebrate all the incredible women around us, their lives and their stories. Now more than ever, it is important that we share the voices and stories which were silenced for centuries, many of which still sadly are.

While gender-based violence still has a brutal grip on the women of South Africa, the brave survivors and their stories are a vital element in overcoming this societal pandemic.

Collection of stories of brave survivors of GBV

Editor and award-winning author Sue Nyathi has compiled a beautiful collection of essays from various women who have bravely opened up about their experiences as survivors of gender-based violence. When Secrets Become Stories is a raw, often harrowing, but resoundingly powerful celebration of women and their courage.

You see, the thing about abuse is that it thrives on silence and flourishes in secrecy.

Sue Nyathi – editor of ‘When Secrets Become Stories’.

‘When Secrets Become Stories’: Synopsis

She was asking for it.

She should have know better.

It’s because I love you, he said.

It’s not that bad, she told herself.

In sharing their experiences from girlhood to the boardroom, from Cape Town’s suburbs to the hills of KwaZulu-Natal, women from different walks of life show how chillingly common male violence against women is. Together, their voices form a deafening chorus.

Gender based violence feeds on shame and silence but in this extraordinary collection, brave women reclaim their power and summon the courage in others to do the same. In speaking out, sharing what was once secret, shame’s hold is broken.


I come to live with the acute knowledge that, as a woman, you will be susceptible to some sort of abuse at the hands of a man and that escaping is a privilege only a few of us enjoy. That womanhood carries a burden that we inherit at brith and are only relieved of at death.

By uncovering the shame and exposing it to the world, you break the power it has over you. Only exposed wounds can heal; the hidden ones fester and cause you to rot inside. Anyone who has ever been abused wears a black cloak of shame, heavy and burdensome and difficult to shake off. However, once discarded, it brings such liberation.

For a moment the temptation to feel somehow victimized on your behalf is darkly seductive. It is easy to give in to the awful charms of this feeling, the Achilles heel of anyone with a heart. However, I will not steal your story. So much has been taken from you already. If I am to go to war for you, I need my wits about me. You, dear child, are neither victim nor survivor. Those are words with little power. You are a warrior.

That is what this book is about, owning your story and telling it boldly wthout shame.

More about the editor

Author and editor Sue Nyathi. Image via Twitter @SueNyathi.

Sukoluhle Nyathi was born in 1978 in the city of Bulawayo. Her love for reading and writing started in her primary school days and has fueled her passion for words ever since.

Her writing interests include poetry, for which she has won several awards, but Nyathi states that prose will always have her heart.

On completing her Cambridge A Levels, Nyathi wanted to study Journalism but at that time there was no such degree available in any Zimbabwean university. So, she found herself studying finance. Her degree brought her a successful career spanning over 10 years in finance and investments, and over 5 years in economic development consulting.

During her years in finance, Nyathi continued to write in her spare time, working as a freelancer for the Sunday Mail. After a move to Johannesburg in 2008, Nyathi focussed her energy on getting her work published. Her debut novel, The Polygamist, was published in 2012 and since then Nyathi has published critically-acclaimed works such as The Golddiggers and A Family Affair.

When Secrets Become Stories: Women Speak Out is published by Jonathan Ball Publishers and is available at Exclusive Books for R272.