Three powerful books to help you find hope and courage

Jolene Chait

Shared experience is a tangible way of how we can support one another, recognise we are not alone and find the right advice for when we need help.

Today’s reality is that many South African women have either faced abuse or know of someone who has been abused. While this is an unfortunate and often terrible lived experience for many, we believe that speaking up about it is the first important step to change our situation.

1st for Women has compiled a list of three South African books which we recommend reading. They inspire hope, love and understanding, so that we too may find comfort between the pages of the stories these brave authors have shared. There’s also something to be learnt from these real life experiences. And, while there is still a long road ahead for all of us in the fight against women abuse, reading up and learning from one another is a positive step in the right direction.


Brutal Legacy by Tracy Going

Once known as the darling of South African TV screens in the late 1990s, Going’s career was cut short when her lover beat her up. In her book, Going recounts the scenes of abuse which many women will find all too familiar. The overlooked faults of her partner, not recognising the red flags and continuously apologising are conveyed with subtlety, which many readers will recognise.

The book reflects on Going’s childhood, as means to recognising the patterns of early abuse, which can make us more vulnerable to bad choices later on. She grows up with an alcoholic father and over-compensating mother but manages to also share the happier times and memories of her childhood, making the story strongly poignant.

She recollects the harrowing experience of having to face her abuser in court, the impact this had on her career and undergoing traumatic cross-examination. Throughout the book she untangles her own confusion around the patterns of abuse and is able to recognise the problem remains squarely with that of the abuser.

Why you should read it? The story is graphic and emotional but real and relatable for many. Going shows true courage and inspiration by sharing her experience from which we can all learn, that the only way to move on from abuse, is to go forward.


Africa’s Daughters by Simbongile Mente

Born in the Eastern Cape, Mente used writing to help her deal with low self-esteem and depression. She began writing a journal to express her feelings and thoughts which she shaped into poetry. Mente began her journey to develop Africa’s Daughters by documenting the stories of 12 women, including herself, from the township Kayamandi in the Stellenbosch area.

Many of the women are like Mente, who are normally the eldest of three or four other siblings, who lost their mothers at a critical time in their lives, during high school. As a result, her father was unable to support his family, and she was forced to drop out of school in Grade 10. In her book, Mente tackles the controversial problems many women face, such as the normalisation of rape culture and modern “human slavery” or human trafficking. Women are especially vulnerable to this type of abuse which hides behind the guise of tradition.

Why you should read it? The story seeks to better educate communities on the issues of poverty, slavery and sexual violence. By informing people about these important issues, they can become better equipped to help one another. The book provides hope where tragic situations can be turned into a message of light.


A Guide to Sexual Health and Pleasure by Dr T

While not specific to women abuse, this book by Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, affectionately known as Dr T, is all about making sexual health and well-being entertaining and enlightening for all readers. The book goes a long way to demystifying sex and sexuality and provides specifics of sexual anatomy and health as well as advice and facts about pleasure and sexual rights. Her style is honest and warm which makes you feel comfortable to open up about topics which might be considered taboo.

Dr T also explores the importance of consent which she discusses both from a legal perspective and how to it needs to be completely clear between two people.  Sex is not exchangeable for being married or getting dinner. Both people need to agree to take part in any sexual activity, whether it is kissing, oral or touching and the book makes this clear and easy to understand.

Why you should read it? It opens up the discussion around sexual pleasure in what can be framed as a very violent society by breaking down the misconceptions of sex, for both men and women. It’s a book that will help you get to grips with healthy sexuality and maybe answer some of those questions you might have been be too shy to ask.