Monday, August 30, 2010

Does Mother Tongue Affect The Way We View Our World?

There is a fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine about how our mother tongue impacts not on how we understand the world necessarily but on what we are obligated to pay attention to and therefore how those details impact on how we view the world.

An example is given of languages such as most European languages that give objects either a masculine or feminine classification. When speaking of these objects they must pay attention to if the objects are masculine or feminine. This seems to affect their perceptions of those objects. This classification is different in different languages. For example a bridge is masculine in Spanish and feminine in German. When study participants were asked to grade various objects, Spanish speakers found bridges to be strong and sturdy while Germans graded them on their elegance.

What I found very interesting was the way we position things in space. I might say it is to my left, or behind me when I say where an object is for example. An Aboriginal tribe in Australia the Guugu Yimithirr, do not have words such as that. Instead everything is related to the cardinal directions. No matter where they are, they are aware of the cardinal directions, from a very young age. They might say the book is on the southwest corner of the bookshelf. For most English speakers such directions would be almost impossible to follow.

The article explains how this way of orientating oneself has an impact on how you see the world. If you are from a language that uses geographical directions, two identical rooms in a hotel which are on opposite sides of a hallway would not be identical at all, unlike for an English speaker.

I thought when I read this about how often seasoned writers advise newbies to write their story, don't copy others since we all have our own unique perspective and maybe this article is another piece of evidence about why this is so important.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Win a Copy of my Latest Book!!

My second romance, Can He Be The One?, is now officially out! I got my author's copies today and would like to give one to you my dear readers.

If you'd like to be in the running to win a signed copy just leave a comment below. In a week, I'll put your names in a cup and pick a winner.

In the meanwhile Sapphire Press has a new blog! Stop over to learn about their other titles and to read the blurb about Can He Be The One?- leave a comment to let them know you've been around!

Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm Being Terrorised by my Dining Room Table

I've always blamed my lack of adult behaviour on my patchy upbringing. When I get scared by skincare products or don't know the reason why all plates on a table must match, I blame it on my parents. They were busy with their own dramas and teaching me about how to fold a cloth napkin just wasn't high on the list. To make things worse, I'm not a girly-girl, I never was. I only knew bras and panties were supposed to match each other when I learned it on a recent Oprah show. The same goes for the way my family is run. The mother is apparently the leader in all things domestic, but if your leader has no guidebook you're likely going to go astray, it's almost assured.

Families have all sorts of secrets, ones they don't even know they have, and mine is no exception. We just hobble along not knowing we're doing things wrong, that is unless a stranger enters your home. Once the stranger is let in, the scowling look, the disdain in his eyes tells it all. You have violated a sacred domestic law. Anyone would know it- why don't you?

A stranger has entered our home. He is out of our league. We don't know people like him, we never have. And he seems to have a standard that we are not living up to no matter how hard we try. I feel terrorised in my own home. But it's too late. He's been invited, everything has been paid. There is no turning back.

Regular readers of my blog will know I recently built an office and moved into it. This left a gaping hole in our house. Apparently that hole in other homes is called a dining room. After a bit of research I realised what we needed was a dining table to take up all of the space in this new dining room. I innocently went out and bought one.

And now it's here.
I think it's obvious this dining room table has no business in our home, in a home headed by ME. Evidence can clearly be seen in this photograph.

Exhibit A: The chaotic, over full bookcases in the background.
Exhibit B: The shiny, pristine gloss of the unscratched table top.
Exhibit C: The carelessly flung computer cable in the foreground of the photo
Exhibit D: The cat hair-less olive cushions on the dining room chairs

The evidence is clear. This table does not belong in this house. It is a stranger. But it stays. It imposes its ways on us. We seem unable to withstand its demands.

As you can see I bought a vase- no more empty mayonnaise jars for flowers brought in from the garden. The Table will not have such behaviour. I've bought a tin of Mr Min- and I use it. My god- I'm even considering buying coasters and table mats!

Be warned by what has happened to my family. Offices are all well and good- but beware the gaping hole that remains behind. It may force you to do things out of character, it may have you inviting terrorists into your own home and, believe me, that can never come to anything good.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ouma's Autumn

I found this little book at the Cape Town Book Fair almost by accident. I had a spare few minutes and decided to take a quick tour of the stands, something I don't usually have time for. I spotted some lovely photos and stepped up to the stand to get more information about them. The woman showed me the photos, they were actually cards one of which had the photo below:

I thought the photos were so lovely I bought two cards. Then the woman told me that the photos actually came from a book and she handed me Ouma's Autumn by Patricia Schonstein Pinnock (African Sun Press).

South Africa because of its cruel past has many sad stories. The Group Areas Act has produced some of the saddest. Imagine finding a piece of land, and through hard work, you manage to put up a house. Slowly you meet your neighbours and you all begin your families. Your kids grow up together. Your neighbourhood creates a history intricately woven into the history of your own family. This is your home. And then legislation decides, based solely on the colour of your skin, that that land, that area, that neighbourhood is no longer for you. You're given a moment to collect your things and you're thrown far away to places where only strangers live to buildings with no history at all.

Ouma's Autumn is the story of a little girl and her grandmother (her ouma) and their life in Harfield Village in Cape Town before the Group Areas Act tears them all apart. The story is told in first person from the little girl's point of view, somehow this makes it all more heartbreaking. Like a child would, the truth is told simply, just as seen, with no embellishments.

An example is when her grandfather returns from fighting in WWII. The soldiers had been promised "land and honour" by General Smuts but upon her grandfather's return, after he "left that part of a man which makes him believe life is something good" on the war fields of Europe, the General's promise was forgotten.

"And at home there was no honour waiting for him. General Smuts gave the boys who returned a wheelbarrow and a shovel and only the injured got a pension. Sam (her grandfather) asked for the piece of land he had been promised but he only got to understand that he'd been short-changed."

They lived in Hartfield, the girl and her Ouma, on a "...small road called Pembroke, so small you must watch for it..." The girl was left at home with the old woman while everyone else went off to school or work.
"Every morning I sat on the stoep with my Ouma watching life in the road. We knew all the families in the area and everything that happened."

Because of their daily seat, they were one of the first to spot the new danger. "Then one day Group Areas came to the neighbourhood... and my dreams began to fall apart."

This is a lovely little book, a book that teaches what is now history, in a simple, personal, matter of fact way that will take up a firm place in your mind, not easily nudged to the side. It has beautiful photos taken by Donald Pinnock. I tried to find the book on the internet and the only copy I found is $47.75, it is ranked at Albris as a collectible, I can believe that in a way. Scary I nearly passed this lovely book by.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cape Town Book Fair and the Joburg Bed Launch

I am back, well most of me. A friend of mine believes that when we travel we leave bits of ourselves behind that come home at their own pace. Because of this, we take a while to be fully home. I imagine a bit of me still wandering around Cape Town Convention Centre or sitting in Fiona Snycker's sunny Johannesburg garden. They will straggle home, I hope, but in the meantime the parts of me back in Botswana are trying their best to get to work.

I'm beginning to feel as if my trip to the Cape Town Book Fair is a bit of a literary pilgrimage. I get filled up with writerly talks and talking, with books and publishing, with friends old and new. I fill my tank to power me through the next year.

I intend to write a few columns about the Book Fair but thought I'd point out some of the highlights:

Bonty at her stall

1. This year there was a fantastic collection of stalls for small publishers from around the continent funded by a German NGO. My friend Bonty Botumile (Thari E Ntsho Publishers) was among the publishers who had a mini stall within the African Collective stall. I also met two publishers I only knew from the internet, Jane Morris and her husband Brian from amaBooks in Zimbabwe and Bibi Bakare-Yusuf from Cassava Republic Press. All were part of this very important initiative to get African publishers ( and writers) working together.

Author of Trinity on Air, Fiona Snyckers at a panel discussion on Chic Lit and Women's Fiction

2.Great panels and other talks and workshops as usual. Listened to Wole Soyinka (and got my book signed) and Damon Galgut (and got my book signed). I'm a big fan of Sarah Lotz as people who read my blog know. I loved her book Exhibit A and I bought her new one Tooth and Nailed (got it signed and in the queue she pointed out that she had included me in her acknowledgments- I was severely chuffed about that). I got the opportunity to read my children's book Lorato and her Wire Car at the Vivlia stand on Monday. A group of children from a nearby school were my audience.

3. I met the folks publishing the romance books I've been writing, Kwela, and their staff Nelleke, Lindsay, and Wendy. I got a copy of my latest, Can He Be the One?, and it looks lovely!

4. I met with Michelle Cooper at Tafelberg and got things sorted for my young adult book, Aunt Lulu which will hopefully be out next year May.

5. I met up with one of my El Gouna co-horts Seni Seneviratne. We spent some time together on Saturday and then went to a poetry reading at Frieda's Cafe later that night. She read her lovely hedgehog poem and that made me quite happy.

Contributors to The Bed Book of Short Stories: (back) Isabella Morris, Nia Magoulianiti-McGregor, Jayne Bauling, Arja Salafranca, me (front) Rita Britz and Novuyo Rose Tshuma
(Photo courtesy of Isabella Morris)

From Cape Town I was off to Johannesburg for the launch of The Bed Book of Short Stories that I helped compile and in which I also have a story. I was graciously hosted by the lovely Snyckers family. The launch was at a beautiful bookstore in Melville called Love Books.

Seven of the contributors showed up (as well as quite a few other people) and we had a grand time. We each read excerpts from our stories and talked a bit about how we approached the theme of bed. At the end of the evening all books in stock were sold out!
Interested in winning a FREE, signed, Bed Book of Short Stories as well as a few other fantastic books from Southern Africa??
Pop over to author Judy Croome's blog for some great book giveaways!