Filled with 25 short stories from writers spanning across South Africa and the diaspora, Queer Africa 2: New Stories, recently published by MaThoko Books, tells tales of self-acceptance, becoming and belonging. It follows the award-winning success of the first edition, Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction (2013), and was co-edited by poet Makhosazana Xaba and writer Karen Martin.
“Rendered here is an array of interpretations of what it means to be fully human, queer and African – three categories of identity often misconstrued as mutually exclusive,” writes author Barbara Boswell in the foreword.
Here, co-editor and poet Makhosazana and Gauteng-based author Thato Magno, who wrote A What?, chat about the importance of the works published in the anthology, “the limited spaces specifically focusing on queer/LGBTIQA+ literature” and more.
Thato, what motivated you to write the short story A What??
As a Black gay man, I have experienced the limited spaces specifically focusing on queer/LGBTIQA+ literature. The call to submit a story presented an opportunity to add to the growing body of work around queer fiction.
Why did you choose title A What?
For this story specifically, I had known that I was interested in this idea of questioning, and I wanted the title to reflect that.
Can you elaborate a bit on the themes of vulnerability, self-acceptance and growth you’ve explored?
Thato: Part of it was a response to what was my growing frustration with narratives about progress and overcoming, especially in the queer/LGBTIQA+ community. I wanted to intervene with a narrative that attempts to reflect a holistic picture. To think about the gut wrenching sense of youth displacement and how mostly as queer/LGBTIQA+ we carry that with us throughout our lives, even as we achieve amazing things.
The narrative fluctuates between the past and present. How does going back and forth in time shape the story?
What was important was to think about how our sense of self changes over time and how transitory some of the things we think we might not survive are. And, that we carry with us all of our experiences so we can never really think about overcoming as forgetting or erasing our past. It is part of us that continues to inform how we think about ourselves in the present and future.
Why do you think publishing these stories is significant for South Africa and the diaspora?
Thato: Knowing the socio-political, familial and political climates many of us engage and confront regularly, these affirming narratives are important to say to people that they matter and they belong, and they should love and care for themselves just as they are.
Makhosazana: What stands out for me is that universities are now teaching Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction. Lecturers from the University of Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria and University of Cape Town have told me that they teach stories from the book to which students respond very positively.
How have readers responded?
Makhosazana: The launches tell an interesting and easily accessible story. Since the book came out at the end of May, we have launched it at four venues. The turnout at each venue spoke to the excitement with which the book is being received. The book’s sales told an even louder story. Also, I heard that at the Cape Town launch a 10-year-old asked when there will be a Queer Africa for Children.
Buy your copy of Queer Africa 2: New Stories.