March 11, 2020
Dear Book Lovers,
I am ecstatic today! One of my favorite authors is on the blog. Bianca Marais, author of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) is talking about a book she loves. I am not going to lie, her letter is stellar and truly holds Mr. H. accountable WITH A CAPITAL A!!! Bianca is originally from South Africa and now lives in Canada. Before Bianca got into writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans. She currently runs the Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative to empower young black women in Africa to write and publish their own stories. How wonderful is that?
I have nothing but kind words to say about Bianca. When I started Dear Mr. Hemingway a year and a half ago, I was a social media newbie. My Instagram/FB photos were lame, I had no idea what a hashtag was, and Instagram stories were not in my wheelhouse. I loved working on this website but made constant errors, had difficulty linking things, and had no clue how important SEOs were. With that said, Bianca was one of my first followers and has stuck around ever since (I think I have improved 😂😂). She is kind, approachable, and a fabulous resource for book recommendations. Bianca has been faithful to this guest writing series, sharing everyone’s post and cheering her fellow authors on. She is a wealth of knowledge and an absolute doll to work with. I look forward to meeting her in person one of these days 🥰🥰. I want to thank her to the moon and back for contributing to this series. If you haven’t read her books…make it happen. they DO NOT disappoint.
Happy Reading Friends,
P.S. Bianca was actually bit by a Giraffe 😯😯 and has a scar to prove it 🦒🦒🦒!! Scary, but kind of cool!
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
In researching your history in order to see what might possibly connect you to the incredible South African short story collection, “If You Keep Digging”, that I’d like to discuss with you today, I discovered that you traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, the Congo and Rwanda between the 30s and 50s.
I must be honest, I balked at the pictures of you standing proudly with your trophy kills, especially the lion and the leopard whose heads you mounted on your walls. I try to tell myself that it was a different time then and I shouldn’t judge you too harshly for all that big game hunting. Even if I did, I know that you wouldn’t give a sh*t what I thought of you, because that’s the kind of person you were.
Which does tie me into the author whose work I’d like to tell you about. Keletso Mopai, too, is a badass. And she, too, doesn’t much give a damn what others think about her. You also both have very similar writing styles in that Ms. Mopai appears to subscribe to the iceberg theory writing technique. She writes in a very minimalistic way, allowing the deeper meaning of each story to shine through implicitly.
That is, however, where your similarities end.
While many of your stories deal with your idea of masculinity – specifically the belief that real men keep doubts and insecurities to themselves while having to constantly prove their manhood – Ms. Mopai explores toxic masculinity, and the effect it has on families. In your short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, you show the title character as someone who transitions from emasculation to full manhood just by shooting buffalo. In Ms. Mopai’s “Monkeys”, we see the fallout of that kind of mindset, and how toxic masculinity often manifests in domestic violence when a man who suppresses his emotions uses his fists to express them.
Her brilliant collection, published by BlackBird Books, includes twelve incredibly diverse stories told from a wide range of perspectives. It explores South Africa’s fledgling democracy in the years after the end of apartheid, and the themes Ms. Mopai touches on include social class issues, racism, colorism, mental illness, sexuality, abandonment, identity, the push and pull of family dynamics, the oppression of women as well as unfulfilled potential.
Anyone who wants to read more about marginalized identities, or who is interested in diverse reads, needs to get this collection immediately. Look out especially for “Monkeys”, “Skinned”, “Madness”, “Becoming a God” and “Fourteen” which I particularly enjoyed.
Yours in the eternal quest to expand one’s horizons,
P.S. Since you never got to South Africa in your travels, you might want to read my two novels which are based there: Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh. I know you’ll agree with me when it comes to my abhorrence of the canned lion hunting industry as touched upon in LAUGH. I’m not sure what you’ll make of my badass women.