A month of South African womxn writers – Day 1: Meet Jen Thorpe, this month’s editor

Hello! I’m Jen Thorpe, a South African novelist and feminist non-fiction writer.

  • My First Time: Stories of Sex and Sexuality from Women Like You: GoodReads.
  • The Peculiars: GoodReads.
  • Feminism Is ISBN: 9780795708275. GoodReads.
  • Living While Feminist ISBN: 9780795709418. GoodReads.
  • The Fall ISBN: 9780795709579. GoodReads.
  • The Peculiars and My First Time are currently out of print, but The Peculiars can be ordered via Jen directly. Details on her website.

I have written two novels, one children’s book, and edited three feminist essay collections. I’m also a features writer, writing mostly on feminism and gender equality. You can find out more about me and read some of my fiction and poetry via my website.

In 2020 I also launched a podcast – Living While Feminist (available on Apple, Spotify, Anchor or wherever you get your podcasts). Each week I speak to feminists about their writing, lives, and books that interest them.

I’m honoured to be pulling together this month’s collection on South African writing for the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative. This month I’m focusing on South African women writers and the literary ecosystem they are a part of. Few South African writers are published globally, and this is a fantastic opportunity to point you to some writers you may be less familiar with.

You might be asking – why focus on women writers? Well, my short answer is that they are as worthy as any other writers of fame, acclaim, and interest, yet they don’t often receive it. This is a chance to change that. The long answer is that it is a personal project of mine – I had hoped to commence PhD studies in literature in 2020 but – plot twist, a global pandemic – these plans were shifted. The focus of my PhD was to be examining the list of novels written by South African women between 1994 and 2019, and so I had begun realising that a) South Africa has a huge collection of women writers, and b) everyone deserved to know about it.

This month, supported by several guest contributors, I’ll be profiling prize winners, publishers, poets and fiction writers, translators, literary journal editors and book bloggers. The selection of books that are reflected here represents only a sample. I encourage you to engage more broadly and deeply with the rich literature that is published in our country each and every year. I have also included collections by queer writers – so you might note different spellings of women/womxn to encompass a broader group.

I hope you enjoy the selection as much as I have enjoyed curating it!

Jen Thorpe is a feminist writer. Her first novel, The Peculiars (2016), was long listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature (2016) and the Sunday Times Fiction Prize (2017). Her second novel, The Fall, was published in July 2020. Thorpe has edited three collections of feminist essays – My First Time: Stories of Sex and Sexuality from Women Like You (2012); Feminism Is: South Africans Speak Their Truth (2018) and Living While Feminist (2020). Her writing has been published in Brittle Paper, Saraba Magazine, Jalada, and Litro. Find out more via https://jen-thorpe.com

4 thoughts on “A month of South African womxn writers – Day 1: Meet Jen Thorpe, this month’s editor

  1. I think this is a very good initiative. I’ve read a number of women writers from SA but they are mostly from the era of apartheid: Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer and Gillian Slovo. The contemporary SA writers I’ve read are mostly men: Zakes Mda, Coetzee, and Fred Khumalo.
    However, an exciting addition to my reading has been the books of Sisonke Msimang, who now divides her time between SA and Australia. I heard her speak at the Auckland Writers Festival in 2019 and she was superb. The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela was as eye-opening for me as was The Cry of Winnie Mandela by Njabulo S. Ndebele.
    So I am looking forward to making new discoveries through this project. Please make sure that you include ISBNs and publishers’ names for those of us trying to order from overseas. The online publisher I use here in Australia doesn’t always have the books I want, but will order them for me if I can provide those details, thanks.
    Best wishes for 2021,
    Lisa Hill, Melbourne Australia


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