This book was not written for me. It was written for men. For black men in particular, although it’s really a book for all South Africans of every race and gender. (For those who don’t know “Magenge” means blokes! Particularly black dudes. Theamadoda who are my mates. My tribe of men, the okes I hang with when I want to drink beers and talk sh*t.)
Fred Khumalo wrote such a perfect review of this book that I am almost loath to add anything. This is some of what he said: …”whether you are young or old, married or single, straight or gay, whether you are going through a rough patch in life – at work, at home, at school – if you are a man, talk about the sh*t. Talking about it – rather than pulling out guns or knives – is not a sign of weakness. It’s an expression of love for oneself and one’s neighbor.”
Melusi Tshabalala(of “Melusi’s everyday Zulu” fame) engages with his reader in a laddish-ly compelling voice. He is funny and honest and streetwise. He is self-depreciating and often vulnerable and he isn’t afraid to expose his own (sometimes grave) screw-ups. He tells it like it is and he doesn’t judge, even when he really wants to. He doesn’t pretend to have every answer. On the contrary… he is comfortable to say he hasn’t a clue and urges us to seek advice from the pros when we don’t have the answers. This is quite revolutionary for humans in general and for men in particular. There is not a man in South Africa, who won’t relate to his stories and to his message. Sometimes the topics feel haphazard and random –in fact the structure of the book perfectly duplicates the atmosphere of late night dialogue with a bunch of dodgy mates in a smoky bar after too many drinks. It totally works. His writing is a glorious fusion of erudite English, South African colloquialisms and a smattering of isiZulu. There are so many clear and necessary nuggets of wisdom that it is pointless to try to list them but his advice covers everything: fatherhood, budgeting, eating your veggies, discrimination, respect for differences, women, how to channel anger in a positive way, handling your alcohol, getting a prostate check and taking responsibility for your actions and mistakes….I particularly applaud the fact that he calls out the bullsh*t double standards of men who rage against racism but feel nothing to themselves discriminate against gay people or women.
On a very personal level Melusi Tshabalala’s book has given me reason for hope. Every time I hear or read of yet another incident of GBV I look around desperately for some reassurance, support, solidarity, from our menfolk. I hope that some male warrior will step forward and draw a line in the sand. And I listen and search for the voices of the good men pledging their solidarity and support, calling their brothers out and showing other men a better way. But largely I can’t find them. And because nobody volunteers these words and because men remain silent, it forces me to assume they don’t care. But Melusi Tshabalala cares. He cares enough to have these conversations and to write this book.
He leaves his readers with this challenge: “Well now its or turn to be the men black boys need. The men who will help steer them away from amasimba(sh*t/drama). Start at home, in your street, in your neighbourhood, in your village. You don’t even have to do anything extraordinary – just be honorable and approachable, able to share. It is important too to empower yourself with knowledge and gain wisdom because what are you going to share with abafana (young men) if you are an empty vessel?”
I will buy a copy of this book for every young (black) man I care about deeply. And then I will propose that it is made compulsory Life Orientation reading in every school! There is no time to waste.
I love books! After all, “Reading is like breathing in and writing is like breathing out.” Pam AllynSo I am excited and proud to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Vrye Weekblad (https://www.vryeweekblad.com/
), which I have admired since my student days, to write some of their book reviews. Previously published in the Vrye Weekblad in Afrikaans.