Pack those troubles in an old kit bag, but don’t forget the books

Ideas

Pack those troubles in an old kit bag, but don’t forget the books

The holidays are almost upon us and there’s no better time to catch up on all the authors you didn’t get to this year

Sunday Times Book Editor
Barbara Masekela says ‘Poli Poli’ was, among other things, to celebrate the strength of women. The book is dedicated to her brother, Hugh Masekela.
FOR HUGH Barbara Masekela says ‘Poli Poli’ was, among other things, to celebrate the strength of women. The book is dedicated to her brother, Hugh Masekela.
Image: Alon Skuy

This is the time I go through my to-be-read piles and essentially make another huge pile of books to read during the holidays. We have rented the same holiday cottage as last year. It does not have a TV and I will giddily leave my laptop at home again, the accommodation becoming my reading sanctuary. The others will go off and hike in the blazing sun, but I will happily stay put, find a comfy place and just catch up on some of the books I didn’t get to this year.

This is actor Gabrielle Union's second memoir.
This is actor Gabrielle Union's second memoir.
Image: Supplied

One pile is my absolute favourite. It’s the memoirs, autobiographies and biographies I used all my willpower not to read before the hols. Summer for me means escaping into other people’s lives and this time (to make it a bit easier to choose) I have a theme: books about women, written by women.

First on my list is You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union. Now if you have no idea who Union is, check yourself, please. She’s a Hollywood superstar, acting in the 1990s seminal movie Bring It On and the blockbuster Bad Boys II, to name but a few. We’re Going to Need More Wine was Union’s first memoir. In it, she went deep, talking about race, gender equality, beauty ideals and personal traumas with rape and infertility. A lot has happened since that offering, which ended in 2017. She has had a baby, Donald Trump was elected US president (urgh), she had a tumultuous stint on the television show America’s Got Talent and her husband, Dwyane Wade, retired from the US’s National Basketball Association (NBA). So she’s got a whole lot of tea to spill. Cannot wait.

Next up is How I Accidentally Became a Global Stock Photo by Shubnum Khan. I did dip into this a few times, I must admit, but I am looking forward to reading it in one sitting. Khan is a born raconteur and her memoir consists of little vignettes about her life — why she decided to shave her head that one time; how she became a traveller, even though she was an extremely nervous person who suffered waves of panic and anxiety; and what it means to travel the world alone as a Muslim woman. It’s a South African Eat Pray Love, just a million times better. Khan said in an interview with the Sunday Times’s Sue De Groot: “I didn’t intend this to be a book about a woman travelling the world and how you need to be brave, but that’s how it turned out, that’s what it ended up becoming. I would hope that the book shows women that we are far more capable sometimes than we might think we are, and that we can do so much more than we realise.”

According to its blurb, this biography aims to provide a sympathetic but objective re-examination of the pop star's cultural impact in the wake of shifts surrounding feminism, celebrity and mental health.
According to its blurb, this biography aims to provide a sympathetic but objective re-examination of the pop star's cultural impact in the wake of shifts surrounding feminism, celebrity and mental health. 
Image: Supplied

Poli Poli, by Barbara Masekela, has also been on my radar this year. The activist, academic and poet dedicates her memoir to her brother, Hugh Masekela, the trumpet maestro who died in 2018. Her life is completely fascinating and this memoir is about her survival as an activist before she left SA for exile.

I have been following Britney Spears’s life, but not really intentionally. I like her music, but I am not an obsessed fan. I did, however, work at a magazine where the star was the cover headline more often than not. The wave of #FreeBritney campaigns and doccies about her have piqued my interest again, so I’m definitely going to delve into Being Britney: Pieces of a Modern Icon, by Jennifer Otter Bickerdike. Professor Bickerdike is a rock ’n’ roll historian, so if you want to know a bit more about where the Britney phenomenon fits into the world, then this is the one to read. The blurb? “Part biography, part social history, Being Britney is the first to provide a sympathetic yet objective re-examination of Britney’s cultural impact in the wake of major collective shifts surrounding feminism, celebrity and mental health.” 

There are plenty more books on my list — fiction that fits easily into a beach bag — but that’s another column. 

subscribe

Previous Article