US publisher buys rights to young South African’s tale

21 January 2015

The international rights to youth activist Malaika wa Azania’s book, Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation, have been bought by Seven Stories Press, a US publisher based in New York.

In making their offer, Dan Simon, publisher at Seven Stories Press, compared Wa Azania to “a young Steve Biko, someone I have long revered for the directness and clarity and power of his vision and his words”, Jacana Media, Wa Azania’s South African publisher, said in an undated media release.

The Press plans to publish the book in the US this year “and will be seeking further international publishing opportunities in the new year for the young firebrand”, Jacana said.

Memoirs of a Born Free as Wa Azania’s “long-overdue letter to the ANC” as well as “a journey of the extraordinary life that she has lived”, Jacana said.

According to BooksLive, Malaika wa Azania is the pen name of 23-year-old Malaika Lesego Samora Mahlatsi, described as a “fierce debater and an activist devoted to pursuing the African Renaissance agenda”.

Her book recounts her experience of growing up in Meadowlands, Soweto, through the end of apartheid and during South Africa’s transition to democracy. Along the way, she develops her Pan-Africanist ideals and identifies herself as a “fighter and future custodian for blackness”.

Wa Azania has said she rejects the notion of “born frees”: “Even in the book I speak about how I feel the term born free is a false thesis,” she says in a video interview with Polity.co.za. “The entire narrative around what born frees are is itself a false thesis. I don’t believe there is such a group of people called born frees.”

The 23-year-old author told TimesLive that the US deal would help her continue to provide for her family and pay her fees at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, where she is a student.

“I am the breadwinner at home after my mother was retrenched.”

Wa Azania’s story is not a reflection of the freedom spoken about in the romantic speeches of government officials, Jacana says. “It epitomises the ongoing struggle for liberation and for emancipation from the mental slavery that still exists even in the ‘born-free’ generation.”

SAinfo reporter