If you follow me on the gram, you already know I gave a reading at the New York Public Library last week. Not gonna lie—NYPL is as 🔥👌🏿 as wet dreams get for a bonafide nerd. Plus I got to hang out with half a dozen outstandings humans, like Zimbabwean intersex activist Tatenda Shumirai Ngwaru; Olga Dies Dreaming author, Xochitl Gonzalez whose book is blazing through bestseller lists right now and Cleyvis Natera whose debut novel, Neruda In The Park, drops in just a few weeks.
And so this week: I’m serving up Fresh Fiction
My essay in the collection is as much about my coming to America story as it is about growing up in the chaotic fireworks show of apartheid’s funeral. Read excerpt below or Watch/listen here—I pop up around 23min in.
Excerpt from Don’t They Have Irons in America:
It was one of those plastic suitcases sold as a bonafide knockoff at Oriental Plaza. A purple bag with a hard shell and zero compartments. My mother bought it for me using money with at least five more pressing jobs. The suitcase carried the smell of ghee and fried peas in samosa triangles. Plus that clean crisp feeling that is Johannesburg in the clutch of autumn. My life arranged itself neatly inside. When it came down to it, all I hauled to America was a few change of clothes, fresh towels and a year’s supply of toiletries. No joke–I had enough toothpaste, roll on deodorant and Nivea body lotion on me to boost a whole bodega. At some point, my mother wanted to buy me an iron. My grandmother–my mother’s mother–a woman who only left her house to bury an important relative or to see about a new young doctor all her friends raved about at Baragwanath, she laughed. Don’t they have irons in America? She asked.
Her son, my mother’s youngest brother, my cool uncle Benny who must’ve been growing his first stubble just as I was born; the heartbreak hustler with forest-thick jerry curls ala Jackson Five and a tongue as slick as a snake’s, he asked me, Aren’t you scared? That question still stays with me. Because to me, at seventeen, Benny’s whole life seemed to outfox fear.
Take that one time we got stuck at a garage late at night. We were moving from Soweto to a white suburb, under cover of dark. I was ten years old. My father very freshly dead. Suicide. His family blamed my mother. She fretted, felt they had too much fertile energy for foolishness. This was a woman who’d taken to sleeping with an Okapi slipjoint knife under her pillow. Just in case. All around us, tension was tightening like a sticky blood clot locking around a heart.
If you enjoyed this little snickle of a taste, read the rest in Alien Nation. Our collection was edited by the extraordinary badass, Sofija Stefanovic. And about that title…
Calling anyone Alien is racist AF 👀🤯! But Alien Nation? Damn good wordsmithing*
Drop a line if you decide to read all the collection’s stories—would love to know how they mould you. And keep fighting the good fight. In America, South Africa, on the internets and anywhere and everywhere someone dares to make any human feel alien.
*clever wordsmithing that I’m sure this land’s Native owners might have something to say about. Like, Alien, really? Try Turtle Island. You know what tho, that’s the beauty of a pun—America nation is, in so many ways, both alien to its highest self and an alien anomaly, itself.