15 Biographies And Memoirs Of Amazing African Women via #WomenWriters #StrongWomen @PatFurstenberg

15 Biographies And Memoirs Of Amazing African Women

What makes a woman amazing? Is it in the way she dominates a boardroom, or the way in which she commands a room full of people when she walks in? Is it the way her mouth curls at the corners when she smiles, or the way she holds herself up even when she is tired? Or perhaps it is the way she picks herself up when life has knocked her over? Maybe it’s the way she makes us feel when we are around her, giving us inspiration and strength?

Here are 15 biographies and memoirs by amazing African women to inspire you this Mother’s Day — and any other day of the year.

1. Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was U.S. poet, singer, memoirist and civil rights activist best known for her seven autobiographies focusing on her childhood and early adult experiences.

Mom & Me & Mom’ is delivered with Angelou’s trademark good humour and fierce optimism. If any resentments linger between these lines, if lives are partially revealed without all the bitter details exposed, well, that is part of Angelou’s forgiving design. As an account of reconciliation, this little book is just revealing enough, and pretty irresistible.” – The Washington Post

  1. This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s First Woman President

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born in Monrovia, moved to the United States to further her career at Harvard University and returned to Liberia. She was the 24th president of Liberia, 2006-2018.

In this stirring memoir, Sirleaf shares the story of her rise to power, including her early childhood; her experiences with abuse, imprisonment, and exile; and her fight for democracy and social justice.

She reveals her determination to succeed in multiple worlds, from her studies in the U.S. to campaigning in some of Liberia’s most desperate and war-torn villages and neighbourhoods. It is the tale of an outspoken political and social reformer who fought the oppression of dictators and championed change. By telling her story, Sirleaf encourages women everywhere to pursue leadership roles at the highest levels of power and gives us all hope that we can change the world.

  1. The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
    Helene Cooper is a Liberian-born American journalist and the Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times. She received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for coverage of the 2014 Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

    The House at Sugar Beach’ is a deeply personal memoir and an examination of a violent and stratified country. The House at Sugar Beach tells of tragedy, forgiveness, and transcendence with unflinching honesty and a survivor’s gentle humour.” (Simon and Schuster)



    4. On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Perry Bundles

    On Her Own Ground” is the first full-scale, definitive biography of Madam C. J. Walker — the legendary African-American entrepreneur and philanthropist — by her great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles. On Her Own Ground” is about a woman who is truly an African-American icon. The book is enriched by the author’s exclusive access to personal letters, records and never-before-seen photographs from the family collection.</

    1. Brutal Legacy: A Memoir by Tracy Going

    Tracy Going is an award-winning former TV and radio news anchor.

    “It’s for every mother who has run, every sister who has picked up the pieces and every friend who hasn’t fled. It’s for every brother who’s cried and for the children who have watched. Every South African should read it.” – Sisonke Msimang, author of Always Another Country”.

  1. Reflecting Rogue, Inside the mind of a feminist by Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola

Pumla Dineo Gqola is a gender activist, award-winning author and full professor of African literature at Wits University.

In her most personal book to date, written from classic Gqola anti-racist, feminist perspectives, Reflecting Rogue” delivers 20 essays of deliciously incisive brain food, all extremely accessible to a general critical readership, without sacrificing intellectual rigour.

  1. Cancer: A love story by Lauren Segal

Lauren Segal is a South African author and museum curator.

“Cancer: A Love Story” is the intimately searing memoir of a four-time cancer survivor. The book breathlessly tracks Lauren’s journey coming to terms with the untold challenges of the dreaded disease. But in the midst of her lonely horror, in a quest for deeper meaning, Lauren discovers the unexpected gift of awareness of unanticipated opportunities that cancer presents — to confront her unmasked humanity; her fears, strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Country of My Skull by Antjie Krog

Antjie Krog is a South African poet, journalist, academic, and writer, the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2018 Gouden Ganzenveer (the golden goose feather), being the first non-Dutch speaking recipient.

“Country of My Skull” captures the complexity of the Truth Commission’s work. The narrative is often traumatic, vivid, and provocative. Krog’s powerful prose lures the reader actively and inventively through a mosaic of insights, impressions, and secret themes. This compelling tale is Antjie Krog’s profound literary account of the mending of a country that was in colossal need of change.

  1. Selected Stories by Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was recognised as a woman “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity” (Alfred Nobel).

In stories written over a period of thirty years, individuals caught up in racial and other South African tensions choose or fall victim to visions and fears of freedom and change.

  1. Nervous Conditions, semi-autobiographical by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean author and filmmaker.

Nervous Conditions” was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989 and is regarded as a significant contribution to African feminism and post-colonialist narratives.

The semi-autobiographical novel focuses on the story of a Rhodesian family in post-colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s. The novel attempts to illustrate the dynamic themes of race, class, gender, and cultural change during the post-colonial conditions in the country that is now Zimbabwe.

  1. The Aya Series by Marguerite Abouet

Marguerite Abouet is an Ivorian writer of graphic novels best known for her Aya series.

The series is one of the few works of postcolonial African fiction that focuses almost entirely on the middle class. Although not entirely autobiographical, the story is based on the author’s life in Côte d’Ivoire. It was adapted into a critically acclaimed animated film, “Aya de Youpougon”.

  1. Prison Diary by Fatima Meer

Fatima Meer is a South African writer, academic, screenwriter, and prominent anti-apartheid activist.

This diary, written by an anti-apartheid activist during her incarceration in the Old Fort in Johannesburg in 1976, begins with her arrest and ends after her release and arrival back in Durban. Details about living conditions, treatment by female guards and visits with her daughters are provided. Her 113 days in captivity are recounted, including how she the practised her Muslim faith and read the Quran.

  1. Eyebags & Dimples by Bonnie Henna
    Bonnie Mbuli was born in Soweto, South Africa.”From child star to mother and wife. From abuse to transcendence. From public figure to piercing private pain. ‘Eyebags & Dimples’ is a portrait of a woman healing by owning every part of who she is. Bonnie’s bravery and vulnerability exemplify the kind of new personal narratives that will inspire the women of South Africa to self-reflect, reclaim and change the emotional status quo of our lives as well as that of our society.” – Lebo Mashile

    1. Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Publication date: November 13 2018 — we’re promised an intimate, powerful and inspiring memoir by the former first lady of the U.S.

    1. Winnie Mandela: A Life, by Anne Mare du Preez Bezdrob

    Everyone has an opinion about Winnie Mandela, and usually a strong one. She has been adored, feared and hated more than any other woman in South African history. But few people know much about the life behind the headlines, myths and sound-bites. This biography is an in-depth and intimate look at Winnie Mandela’s personal and political life and takes the reader on a remarkable journey of understanding.

    This article was first published on Huffington Post SA on 10 May 2018

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Today I Will Say A Prayer For Those Women Who Fought For My Freedoms via @PatFurstenberg

Today I Will Say A Prayer For Those Women Who Fought For My Freedoms

Think of one woman that made an impact on your life. Do you see her with your mind’s eye? Do you see her smile, do you feel her warm arms around you? Do you feel her soft hair touching your cheek? Does this memory make you feel at peace with yourself? Do you draw strength out of it?

Now really try to remember this woman. Do you see the wrinkles around her mouth? The fine lines at the corners of her eyes? Perhaps not, because they were often hidden by her smile, whenever she was watching you. Do you remember her hands were worn out by work, with calluses on her palms and burn marks from cooking? Probably not, because they’ve been hugging you and supporting you, being there for you, but out of view. Have you ever noticed her clothes being out of fashion? Of course not, because they were clean and, more than once, they’ve sheltered your body on cold days and nights.

Do you remember her voice encouraging you? But do you ever remember her complaining about her ailing body? The sleepless nights? The long walks she took each day? The times she went hungry so that you can eat?

Have you ever asked yourself what kept her going? What gives her the strength and energy to get out of bed every morning in a cold room and get going? Do it all over again, day after day? The walking and the working and the waiting and the hoping? Wishing for a better life; for her or for you?

Always for you.

Why did 20,000 women march, peacefully, to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 and petitioned against the country’s pass laws?

They marched so that they can walk about freely and find better jobs, so that you won’t have to carry a pass, when your turn comes. They did it for you.

Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’ imbokodo! [Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock!]

Why do you think it is that 20,000 women march in New York in 1909, asking for better working conditions?

So that they can provide a better life for their children so that when their daughters became of age to look for work, they would do so at no disadvantage at all.

“We’d rather starve quick than starve slow,” was their motto, expressing their anger against the conditions under which they worked in the sweatshops’ factories.

Why, you may ask, did the Suffragettes persist in their fight for votes for women for almost 100 years?

What fueled their march, spanning more than one generation, from 1832 when Mary Smith presented the first women’s suffrage petition to Parliament only to have the women’s exclusion from the vote confirmed, going through the Mud March of 1907, the mass rally of 1908 in Hyde Park when 300,000 – 500,000 activists attended? A time where women and men went through hunger strikes, imprisonment, permanent physical injuries and sexual abuse by police… with all of this only coming to an end in 1928 when the Amendment of the Representation of the People Act finally entitled everyone over the age of 21 to vote.

They did it so that their daughters won’t have to fight the same battle; for their daughters to be seen as human beings, with rights equal to those of men.

Why did tens of thousands of Protestants, mainly women, march in St Petersburg in March 1917, asking for an end to Russia’s involvement in WWI and… bread?

“Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland,” they called.

This movement is what sparked the Russian Revolution and the overthrowing of the Tsar. The Government that came to power granted women the right to vote.

This women’s day I’ll think of the teacher that empowered so many generations of girls and boys with her encouraging smile. I’ll think of the teacher who shared her lunch with that one child in her class so that he wouldn’t feel sidelined. This women’s day I’ll think of Mama Thembile who sells food by the side of the road every day from 6 am… Each day waiting for that one little girl passing by on her way to school and for which she has a special sandwich prepared. She doesn’t know the girl, but she knows the hunger in her eyes. This women’s day I’ll think of Mama Maria who, after a day’s work, still finds the strength to stop by at a children’s home to read stories, because she knows it makes a difference to the children.

This women’s day I’ll say a prayer for the women who fought, all around the world, so that I can think and speak and write, freely; and make my own choices and stand by them, without fear. That I may live as well as enjoy life for what it has to offer, to me and my children, happily.

We are stronger together.

First published on the Huffington Post SA on 9 August 2017

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