69 Jerusalem Street ★★★★
Modjaji Books, R220
Lindiwe Nkutha’s debut collection of short stories delves into the human baggage of everyday people’s life-tales and gives them song. Raised in Soweto and living in Johannesburg with her wife, Nkutha’s writing explores sexuality, relationships and life’s choices while using touchstones such as a pair of shoes, cinnamon cigarettes and a broken guitar.
“I lost my legs to hunger,” says Rock, in the first tale by the same name. But pulling the curtain back on a child’s longing to be a rock star is a story about a mother’s lover lost to exile. Black Widow begins as a tale about mourning an estranged partner and transforms into an exploration of a person who “lived a full life” first as a man and then as a woman.
Poetry slips out of the lips of a baby that “had to be conceived three times before I finally conceded to being born”, in Jocasta’s Hairballs, a story of abuse and scandal. “Trust them to give us a dirty month,” says the mother in 69 Jerusalem Street, putting voice to many on their opinion of Women’s Month.
In The Reader Nkutha draws on her accounting background and pairs it uniquely with divination skills, weaving a tale about overcoming financial woe.
In this collection, relationships are messy, complex – be it with a parent, a lover, or even the self. Altogether, Nkutha delivers the reader the scandalous pleasure of being the proverbial fly on your neighbour’s wall. @ms_tiahmarie