South African Womxn Writers – Day 10: Sally Partridge writes about the “rainbow of talent” in South Africa’s youth fiction

South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation, and no-where is this colourful spirit more present than in the country’s colourful array of young adult fiction written by some of the country’s most prolific female authors.

Every year a throng of both recognised and new female voices hit the shelves, driven by the social issues that dominate our collective conscious, international trends that have filtered down to our sunny shores, and the literary initiatives that promote innovation.

Many of the country’s established fiction writers have released youth novels, such as award-winning author Fiona Snyckers, who is as prolific with her youth novels as she is critically acclaimed fiction. Others, such as Elizabeth Wasserman, Joanne Macgregor and Rouxnette Meiring have all dedicated their careers to the genre.

There is, as they say, room for everyone.

Home of award-winning youth fiction

In South Africa, education and literacy are fiercely advocated by its citizens and authors alike, and it has become a tradition to recognise youth literature that stands out above the rest.

  • Annerle Barnard – Sindikaat [ISBN: 9780624087601 GoodReads]
  • Nerine Dorman – Sing Down the Stars [ISBN: 9780624087489 GoodReads]
  • Dianne Case – 92 Queens Road [ISBN: 9780636016040 GoodReads]
  • Patricia Schonstein Pinnock – Skyline [ISBN: 9780864864321 GoodReads]
  • Jenny Robson – Savannah 2116 AD [ISBN: 9780624042303 GoodReads]
  • Edyth Bulbring – Melly, Fatty and Me [ISBN: 9780143527411 GoodReads]

Awards such as the South Africa Literary Awards (SALAs) Youth Literature Award, The Percy Fitzpatrick Prize, and the Media 24 Awards MER Prize recognise the best work of youth fiction published annually. For many womxn writers, the prize money and acclaim from these prizes help support their careers and provide a platform from which to publish more work. Previous recipients include local stalwarts Edyth Bulbring, Carin Krahtz, and well, me.

  • Edyth Bulbring – The Choice Between Us [ISBN: 9780624086826 GoodReads]
  • S.A. Partridge – Dark Poppy’s Demise [ISBN: 9780798155441 GoodReads]
  • Tot Siens Koning Arthur – Annelie Ferreira [ISBN: 9780624056225 GoodReads]
  • S.A. Partridge – Sharp Edges [ISBN: 9780798163262 GoodReads]
  • Carin Krahtz – Elton Amper-Famous: April en Juffrou Brom [ISBN: 9780624073154 GoodReads]
  • Edyth Bulbring – Snitch [ISBN: 9781990941221 GoodReads]
  • Carin Krahtz – Blou is Nie ‘n Kleur Nie [ISBN: 9780624081937 GoodReads]
  • Sally Partridge – Mine [ISBN: 9780798176828 GoodReads]

Another much-coveted accolade is The Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature, one of the very few literary competitions open to the public that also welcomes books written in indigenous languages. Submissions are judged blindly, giving writers across the country, regardless of education, home language and publication history, a chance. Previous winners include previously published heavyweights Jayne Bauling, Adeline Radloff, and Alex Smith, as well as bright new voices such as Lebohang Pheko, Nerine Dorman, and Tsireledzo Mushoma.

Many Sanlam-winning books have gone on to be prescribed in schools and even adapted for film, such as Marita van der Vyfer’s Die ongelooflike avonture van Hanna Hoekom [ISBN: 9780624049401].

Books that mirror the challenges our youths face

It would be a mistake to think that South Africa’s vibrant youth literary scene is dominated by literary award entries. The country has a thriving market of YA fiction that tackle issues pertinent to South Africa’s youth.

Two notable examples include Solomon’s Story [ISBN: 9781431019137], a much-loved modern classic by Judy Froman, which tells the true story of Solomon Mahlangu who was executed by the state, and The Rules by Dianne Case [ISBN: 9780992201845], which details the harsh realities of life on the Cape Flats.

The Rules was published by female-led publishing house Cover2Cover Books, which is dedicated to promoting real South African stories and launching the careers of young authors. Bontle Senne and Zimkhitha Mlanzeli are both Cover2Cover alumni.

As good an any international title

South Africa has its fair share of genre novels that could easily light up the window displays of any international bookstore alongside superstars like Veronica Roth and Stephanie Meyer.

There has been a throng of exciting dystopian and urban fantasy novels published in recent years, such as Lily Herne’s Deadlands [9780143527695], a thrilling story about the survivors of a zombie apocalypse, the equally exhilarating Elevation [ISBN: 9780798172264] series by Helen Brain and the post-apocalyptic The Mark [ISBN: 9780620721745] by Edyth Bulbring.

Browse any shelf at your nearest bookstore and you’ll spot local YA romances, coming of age stories, sci-fi and even horror. South Africa may be a small country, but the talent bubbling up inside it is considerable.

South Africans are known for their humour, entrepreneurial spirit, and for coming together when times are tough. This ethos comes alive between the pages of books written by the country’s female authors, who work tirelessly to inspire, support and uplift future generations and create a lasting reading culture.

Sally Partridge is a novelist and short story writer from Cape Town, South Africa. She was awarded a South African Literary Award (SALA) in 2019 and is a four-time recipient of the M.E.R Prize for Youth Fiction. Her work has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story prize, the Sanlam Prize for Youth Literature, the IBBY Honour List, and the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize. For her contribution to youth literature, she was named one of Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans in 2011. Her seventh novel for young adults will be published in 2021. Twitter: @sapartridge Website:

This month’s blog is curated by Jen Thorpe.

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 Jen is also the host of the Living While Feminist Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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