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Five must-read non-fiction titles from South African female writers

This Women’s Month, indulge in some South African literature. These non-fiction titles celebrate the resistance and rebellion of women throughout time in South Africa.


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The 1956 Women’s March on 9 August to the Union Buildings mark an epic moment in South African history where 20,000 women from all races and all walks of life marched for their rights, chanting: “Strijdom, you have tampered with the women; you have struck a rock.”

The pandemic has amplified systemic inequalities faced by women against the backdrop of femicide and gender-based violence. As the women of 1956 did, we need to continue a movement of resistance, resilience and rebellion.

Five titles by South African female writers

Women Speak by Shamim Meer (1998)

Co-founder and editor of the 1980s community magazine, Speak, Shamim Meer sheds light on community organising, women and politics, sexuality, birth control and personal struggles of different women from the 1980s to the early 1990s.

The book brings forth lessons learned and pertinent issues for women during a pivotal moment in history. The issues raised in this book are a testament to the fact that we constantly need to refer to the past in order to understand our future.

Know more about Speak and read back issues here.

Feminism Is: South Africans Speak Their Truth edited by Jen Thorpe (2018)

This book is an ideal book for young and old to understand feminism in the South African context.

Feminism Is breaks down feminism into what it means in the daily life of a woman taking on parenting, emotions, sexuality, discrimination and protest. A recommended read for any woman. Even if you don’t subscribe to feminism, you will find inspiration in these honest accounts of daily life.

Beaten but not Broken by Vanessa Govender (2018)

This book is a tragic but triumphant reflection on the life of Vanessa Govender who was in an abusive relationship with a famous radio deejay at the peak of her own journalism career. She lived a double life for a long time, and finally, in this book, she breaks a long time silence and every taboo associated with Indian culture.

Govender delves into her personal pain to present a triumphant tale of survival and ultimately finding the truest form of self-love.

Watch an interview about the book

The Way I See It: The Musings of a Black Woman in the Rainbow Nation by Lerato Tshabalala (2016)

Much like her old column, Urban Miss in the Sunday Times, Lerato Tshabalala holds back no punches when it comes to her opinion. Everyone gets a swing — from car guards to white people in corporate, politicians and people who perpetuate stereotypes.

This book is a little more than thought-provoking but deeply insightful, cheeky and honest.

Unbecoming to Become by Ayanda MaNgubane Borotho (2019)

Who could forget Ayanda Borotho winning our hearts in the sitcom Nomzamo as the lead character? This deeply personal memoir is a journey into how this young black woman reclaimed her life from an intoxicating relationship with a gangster.

Ayanda’s journey is one of finding herself in the haze of social conditioning, motherhood expectations, social ostracism ad finally finding and living her own truth.

Watch the book review

Also read: Women’s Month: Three must-read books by Pumla Dineo Gqola