City Press book prize winner announced

2014-09-18 11:32

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Education researcher Vashti Nepaul was announced as the winner of the City Press Tafelberg nonfiction award at a function at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town last night.

The R60 000 award, which was established in 2012, is given yearly to an author to fund the research for a book on a subject of importance to the South African context.

City Press editor-in-chief, Ferial Haffajee, said the judging panel for this year’s tightly contested competition found that Nepaul’s winning entry, Gift, which explores the education sector in South Africa, more than met this criteria.

Nepaul’s book will tackle the challenges of helping gifted children from poor South African communities maximise their potential.

“Education comes up again and again as a key issue for our readers,” she said.

Nepaul could not attend the awards ceremony but the inaugural winner, Dr Maria Phalime, spoke to Haffajee about her acclaimed debut, Post Mortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away.

Drawing largely on her personal experience, Phalime’s book details the catastrophic state of much of the country’s healthcare system.

“The state of our hospitals in general is dire … there’s a lot of dysfunction in our public health system” Phalime said.

“What use am I as a doctor when someone comes to me desperately in need and I can’t help?” she asked, after recounting some of the experiences that led to her walking away from the profession for good a decade ago.

Annie Olivier, commissioning editor (nonfiction) at Tafelberg, said the success of Phalime’s book and the increasing number of entries received this year is an indication of the growth of the award.

“South African nonfiction writers need all the support they can get,” she said, “and the City Press Tafelberg nonfiction award has become the premier prize.”

The other finalists for this year’s award were

Lydia Gittens for proposing a book on the controversial cultural practice of Ukuthwala; Liesl Louw-Vaudran investigating whether South African diplomacy in Africa is working; and The Very Reverend Michael Weeder, who entered a biography of activist Reg September.

Entries for the 2015 award are open and the closing date is June 30.

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