Angela Makholwa and Lerato Tshabalala were the featured guests at Rosa Parks Library Soweto on 10th August 2016.
The Rosa Parks Memorial Library, named by the US embassy in honour of their human rights hero Rosa Parks, hosted two very different personalities as part of their women’s day celebrations. The two were Angela Makholwa and Lerato Tshabalala. The former started as a journalist on the crime beat before being on the cutting edge of today’s world literature with books like Red Ink, The Thirtieth Candle and The Black Widow Society. The latter also started as a journalist and editor before recently made a splash with her book The Way I See it described as a series of essays showcasing the view from one black South African woman.
The event started with everyone in the room introducing themselves. There was about thirty individuals with a vast difference in ages from students in high school to an older gentleman who looked to be in his early sixties.
The event started off with the writer and author giving the stories about how their first books came about. Tshabalala kicked it off started her career as a human in Soweto before joining the world of journalism working her way up the editorial career before signing off from Sunday Times and heading out to edit True Love South Africa. She was approached by a publisher who asked if she could pen a book. You can watch her who presentation in the below YouTube video.
Then Angela Makholwa told us the story of her first book Red Ink the story which featured a serial killer. It was a story told from her dealing with a real life serial killer who allowed her into his life while she was a crime reporter. It was a story that took an few years and we were all hanging onto her words, you don’t get this access to your sheros everyday, when Lerato announced herself. The phone of the older gentleman I mentioned earlier rang and she took offence interrupting Makholwa who was in the middle of making a point. It was not ideal. You can see the whole thing with your own eyes on the following YouTube video.
The presentations were done by writer and author and then the questions came fast and thick from the audience. The questions for Makholwa were mainly concerned with the scary genre of writing she had chosen and her second book The Thirtieth Candle (which incidentally left me chained on a beach in Seychelles a few ago). Some were concerned for her mental health after having to write such difficult topics. She gave well thought out answers especially about her crime writing; it was popular as people could pick up a book with this type of content knowing that they could put it down safely in their bed. She also told us that she was working on a new crime novel; we really can’t wait.
The second speaker focused on how hard she had worked as the child of a cleaner and grandchild of drunks. She had started from Soweto ending up in a high school with only one white person (shame); in her words “I am a textbook case of someone who had raised herself by her bootstraps.” Her more bizarre reaction was when she was asked about her loudly casting aspersions on black excellence. She had clearly prepared for this question and she stood up and started giving motivational talk type monologue, I suppose that is why she has “motivational speaker” on her resume, that included quotes from James Baldwin and experiences crying when someone called her fat as a child. That speech left my blood cold as she was standing right in front of me. At the end of the presentation, I was convinced that I had never encountered such a mean willed panelist in a literary discussion in my long six month career covering these types of events. I would not be buying her book; too many good books coming out of South Africa to waste my hard earned Kenya shillings.
P.S. If you have to tell people that what you are doing is satire then you have failed miserably Ms. Tshabalala.