Here’s the City Press book prize short list

The top five entries for the prestigious City Press Tafelberg Nonfiction Award have finally been revealed. With more than 120 submissions this year, writers who had already begun their research into their selected fields hope to secure a publishing contract with Tafelberg and bag R120 000 to help develop
their book.

The biennial award encourages work across all aspects of nonfiction that offers relevance to the South African landscape. After careful consideration, we are proud to announce the five finalists: Lesedi Molefi, Harry Kalmer, Tyrone August, Nandipha Gantsho and Sara Black.



Mental illness was again highlighted this week when news broke that hip-hop star HHP, who had spoken publically about his battle with depression, committed suicide.

In Patient 12A, Molefi chronicles his time spent in a mental health clinic in Johannesburg in 2016. Molefi candidly writes about the challenges he faced at the clinic every day, and relates stories from fellow patients. Attempting to shed light on mental illness within the black community, his memoir will also look at how young adults experience the work environment.

“This book seeks to destigmatise mental illness among young black professional South Africans, and to use that as an entry point to investigate the sociocultural, socioeconomic and sociopolitical issues that come about as a result,” Molefi says.

Molefi is a writer and videographer, and has covered topics related to current affairs and pop culture. His independent work includes the online documentary Reconnecting Pangea.



Requiem for a Joller by author Harry Kalmer traces the life story of anti-apartheid activist Marius Schoon, who was jailed for 12 years for sabotage in the 1960s and lived in exile after his release. In 1984, his wife and their 6-year-old daughter were killed by a letter bomb sent by an apartheid security police spy. Kalmer uses Schoon’s personal archive to outline his life.

Kalmer, who wrote A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg, already has a foot in the literary world and was particularly moved to tell Schoon’s story.



Former Cape Times editor and author Tyrone August proposed an autobiography of poet and political activist Dennis Brutus, who was banned by the National Party government in 1962. Through the SA Non-Racial Olympic Committee, he led a campaign against South Africa being allowed to take part in the 1964 Olympics. August will take a biographical look at the first four decades of Brutus’ life.

“A close study of the first four decades of his life will lead to a more informed understanding and, consequently, an enhanced appreciation of the content and form of Brutus’ poetry,” says August.

Brutus, who served 18 months on Robben Island, released his first collection of poems while he was imprisoned in 1963.

“While there is some autobiographical work available on Brutus, this material appears in different titles and is not written up into a single narrative,” says August. “My biography will be the first attempt to construct a continuous narrative of his early life in South Africa.”



In this memoir, Nandipha Gantsho draws on her life as a black teacher in a predominantly Indian school during post-apartheid South Africa. Gantsho explores issues of identity, race and how the educational landscape has developed since the end of apartheid. She will offer insight into the transitional period, between 1995 and 1999, and the aftermath of the state of education in the country.

“The book will address issues of identity, education and change, the role of trade unions in transformation, survival, humanity and the power of the written word,” Gantsho says of her submission.

Gantsho has more than 20 years of experience as an English teacher and is currently a lecturer at the University of Mpumalanga. She has a master’s degree in applied English language from Wits University.



This submission also revolves around the field of education. In At the Chalkface, Sara Black takes a more analytical approach to her time spent as a maths teacher. Black will illustrate why she believes the current system is failing so many of its teachers, and how the pressures of the educational system eventually saw her leave her position as head of the maths department once she had reached her limit.

“In the book, I try to explain to the armchair critic
why the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union is so powerful
and how the material reality of teachers’ working conditions continues to skew that power in problematic ways,” she says.

The themes she will tackle in the book include literacy issues, special education needs, departmental pressures and the multiple challenges that students face every day.

“I foreground how the ‘ideal teacher’ is often verging on sainthood and why this is not only not fair, but simply irrational and an infeasible expectation for the sustainable staffing of our public schooling system,” she says.

As an education researcher based at the University of Cape Town, she recently began her PhD in sociology of education.

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