Hello hi, we’re in 2021. I’ve entered quietly, with no fuss, still not touching anything because we’ve already seen what’s happening around the world. It’s been a rough time, whether it’s personally or professionally – we’ve all dealt with some struggles over the last year. But, I can feel the tides changing for me. I’m managing my time better and most importantly, I’m getting back into reading physical books again.
At some point in 2020, I struggled to pay attention to anything but my social media, ASMR Youtube videos and romance novels on my phone. Something shifted near the end of December and I found myself picking up my long overdue books again. For context, I have always been a book nerd. I was that kid who didn’t play outside because I wanted to read. All I asked for Christmas were books, more books and book vouchers. And once I watched the iconic Matilda (1996) – I never looked back.
Ask almost any millennial and they’ll mention how they used to be able to devour a book a week and now can’t read more than a few emails. The reality is, we’re bombarded with tech devices and other things taking up our time. When you were 10, you probably didn’t have a tablet, a laptop, a PC or social media. Anyways, I found myself climbing back into reading and finishing books in like two to three days. I’m actively aiming to read more local authors and just my luck, I’ve got some friends who have launched books in the last couple of months.
‘Mermaid Fillet is about violence, feminism and how you dala what you must.’ And friends, when I say it was a wild ride – I’m not joking. Mia Ardene’s book is about the reality of two Cape Towns, the interconnectedness of Coloured communities and feminist reckoning. I was STRESSED throughout, but the kind of stress that comes from enjoying a book so much you don’t want it to end. I kept stopping midway to laugh at the actual audacity of the dialogue (binnepoes-pink nails sent me) and take pictures of my favourite quotes. The plot unfolded in a way I didn’t expect at all. In Mermaid Fillet, sexuality is fluid and well, fluid ends up playing a big part in the story. I read not a single review because I wanted no inkling of what I was in for. It’s violent, funny and feels like a risky adventure in a taxi with a driver taking all the illegal shortcuts and picking up half of his friends. My favourite moment? When one of the characters, AK, a man in the not very legal import/export business shares the key to romance (“AK was on the chise always, because AK knew that marriage was a continuous chise”) and his wedding vows.
I laughed because not only would I want to be wooed like that, I’d probably say my shit just like AK. Real mf romance hours.
We have our dynamic and I know I can be domineering, but I’m not afraid to kneel at your feet. If you fall, we fall. If you’re good, I’m good. If you’re happy, I’m happy. If you’re sad, someone’s gonna die. If I had nine seconds left to live, I’d call you. We are my world. This is me. This is mine. I will cede everything I recognise to protect this. Naaiers must take your name out their mouth. Don’t fuck with my family. I will put humans to sleep like dogs to protect this. I will peel membrane off the earth’s surface for you. There is only you.Alton ‘AK’ Kleinhans, Mermaid Fillet
Those Who Live in Cages
Another debut from my Twitter mutual (and friend) Terry-Ann Adams. Set in Johannesburg’s Eldorado Park (Eldos) – Those Who Live in Cages weaves a tale of five women with their unique and equally recognisable struggles. I’ve never been to Eldos but Terry made me feel like I knew the area so well – from the intro pages to the stories each woman shared. How communities carve out home after being displaced during apartheid, the weight of repressive religious beliefs, the exploitation of Black and brown women in this country and *cough cough* how we uphold misogynistic ideals. How your boy cousin or brother can quite literally never learn how to wash dishes or make his own bed but you better know how to cook a five-course meal. The stories felt so tangible, from straddling two worlds like living in a Coloured area while attending a Model C school to how drug addiction destabilizes our households. How neighbourhoods are separated by the ‘nice’ houses and how we judge across class lines. Reading this book made me feel really grateful for my own upbringing and how many stories need to be told from all parts of this country.
I am the people and the people are me. I’ve seen children born and die too early. I have seen parents shout when the streetlights go on. I am the sound of the dice as it hits the pavement. I am the smell of Cobra polish and new paint after Christmas bonuses get paid in. These are the things that make me, me.
So welcome and enjoy your time here as you walk down my dusty streets, play drie blikkies with my children, have a dagwood and listen to Blue Magic.
Welcome to Eldorado Park.Those Who Live in Cages
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
Holly Black is my dark faerie fantasy queen. I discovered her books at 15 and promptly never read a Harry Potter book again. Her debut, Tithe, changed my life and introduced my favourite kind of protagonist: mouthy, slick (borderline criminal), smart, expressive and very flawed female heroines. I’ve not been the same ever since. Her latest release forms part of her Folk of the Air series, focusing on Prince Cardan’s story, the beautiful prince who falls in love with the human girl, Jude Duarte. In faerie folklore, fae are unable to lie so stories are the closest they get to a loophole to this rule. It was great to hear how the arrogant prince fell in love with the one mortal woman who could and does outwit and outplay him with better sword skills. It outlines the lessons he learns, how his love grows for the girl he really shouldn’t have and why having a heart is terrible but we need one anyways.
You kind of need to read the other books to really enjoy these stories, but Holly Black manages to make this book feel like a short anthology and ties it all together so well.
Villains were wonderful. They got to be cruel and selfish, to preen in front of mirrors and poison apples, and trap girls on mountains of glass. They indulged all their worst impulses, revenged themselves for the least offense, and took every last thing they wanted. And sure, they wound up in barrels studded with nails, or dancing in iron shoes heated by fire, not just dead, but disgraced and screaming. But before they got what was coming to them, they got to be the fairest in all the land.Holly Black, How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
In all of this, I’ve started a small reading challenge – I’m trying to read new books and re-read old ones.
If nothing else, when the world is burning I still have books.
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