Living Coloured: Accidental author's road from the Cape Flats to bestsellers list

2019-06-20 06:25
Yusuf Daniels with his book, 'Living Coloured'. (Supplied)

Yusuf Daniels with his book, 'Living Coloured'. (Supplied)

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A Cape Flats writer has taken his story from the dusty streets on the outskirts of the city to Exclusive Books' bestsellers list.

Yusuf Daniels, 48, is the author of Living Coloured, a recently released compilation of short stories about life on the Cape Flats as a child in the 1970s.

His anecdotes of wearing a swirlkous (stockings) over his hair as he transformed into a "1970s Justin Bieber" for a birthday party and making a quick buck by selling tameletjies (homemade sweets) to children in Bridgetown form part of his memoir about the tenacious people who lived in the apartheid dumping ground about 40 years ago.

"I'm not an author. I am a storyteller," Daniels insists.

"I tell stories about growing up in one big community and the adventures we had playing in the streets. I write about the days when it was common to get a good hiding from a neighbour and even the Muslims knew the time of the prayer meetings."

Daniels was born in Bridgetown, Athlone, where he vividly remembers playing kennetjie (an outdoor game) until late, or hanging out with his friends at the nearby dam.

When he was 10, Daniels, his parents and four sisters moved to Portlands in Mitchells Plain, where he shared one room with all his siblings.

Describing himself as a hustler, the young Daniels would sell anything from marbles to loquats to make a quick buck.

The allure of gangsterism saw him enter its ranks at only 14.

"There were no guns back then, just knives, stabbing and robbing. I was a quiet boy, but I was clever and always stood in the back so I could run away," he said.

He learnt some hard lessons during his stint, Daniels recalled, such as toughening up and never taking life for granted.

"But that was a part of my life which taught me valuable lessons."

Living Coloured is a compilation of short stories

Living Coloured is a compilation of short stories about Yusuf Daniels' life on the Cape Flats as a child in the 1970s. (Supplied)

He turned his back on the gang when he discovered the joys of baseball, a sport which saw him travel to Cuba and Harare as part of the provincial and national teams.

Daniels considers himself an accidental author – it was while lying bored on his acupuncturist’s table in October that he wrote his first story about his childhood on his cellphone and posted it on Facebook.

Three weeks later, he had a book deal with Jacana Books.

"It took me a month and a half to write Living Coloured. It’s my story of random snippets of my life growing up, written the way I speak," Daniels said.

He was blown away by the response to his book, he admits.

"I think people like real stories. I don’t think it’s because I am cool or that I have nice hair," Daniels joked.

"We all have a story. I just chose to tell mine."

Yusuf Daniels. (Supplied)

Auctioneer Yusuf Daniels, who now lives in Kenwyn, Cape Town. (Supplied)

Daniels also writes Facebook reviews of Cape Flats establishments and personalities, promoting the people and businesses on social media by covering everyone from fruit and vegetable vendors, to caterers.

He also wrote a parody of Game of Thrones using clichés about coloured people, based on him being the "father of three dragons".

He hopes his compilation of "Labarang stories and hook-ups at the public swimming pool with the English girls" will resonate with those who also grew up on the outskirts of the city.

The book is priced at R140.

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