Why 'woke' is no joke

07 September 2016 - 09:16 By AZIZZAR MOSUPI

Black female authors are the next big thing in South African publishing, a development publisher says follows the "woke" trend.

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According to Jacana Media's assistant publisher Sibongile Machika, both authors and readers are more "woke" - a colloquial term that refers to a state of social and political awareness used by young, black millennials. Jacana predominantly publishes books by South African authors.

"People are attracted to that, people are hungry for that - your Lerato Tshabalalas (The Way I See It author) and The Yearning (a book by Mohale Mashigo)," Sibongile says.

"Black female authors are now bold enough to say 'I am doing it [writing and publishing a no-holds- barred book] with or without you'.

"It is only now that the heavyweights of the publishing industry are paying attention."

Publishers and book dealers are, however, concerned about South Africa's poor reading culture, and this has dominated debates at the SA National Book Week, along with the price of books.

Elitha van Stadt, chief executive of the South African Book Development Council, says the answer to the culture of poor reading is to get people interested in stories through oral storytelling - something that would resonate with rural and traditional communities .

Stadt disagrees with the notion of books being pricey, given that it is a tangible product that you can keep.

"If you compare it to going out to the movies, buying a book will come out cheaper," she says.

"A book also has no expiry date."

The council is the organiser of the National Book Week, which this year runs from September 5 to 11.

Kelly Ansara of Jonathan Ball Publishers agrees that "the books market is a lot stronger than people tend to think", but maintains that there is a need for more locally published books, especially for children and in various local languages.