Exploring women’s struggle stories

And Wrote My Story Anyway explores the work of black women writing under apartheid.

Black South African women who wrote under apartheid are not well known, says Dr Barbara Boswell, who has written a book about them.

The 47-year-old academic from Salt River explores their work in her book, And Wrote My Story Anyway.

The book, published in September, argues that each of the novels it examines offers a critique of nationalism at various points in South Africa’s history.

Black women’s writing is a form of resistance to their oppression, says Dr Boswell, an associate professor of English literature and head of department of English literary studies at UCT.

“It demonstrates the ways in which writing fiction can be a form of feminist expression for black women,” she says.

Dr Boswell says she has found, in her teaching of South African literature, that the average person has never heard of any black women writers.

“I wanted to highlight their work and their political contributions through their writing,” she says.

Her idea for the title of her book was inspired by a short story, The Toilet, by Gcina Mhlophe, written during the height of apartheid.

“It is about a factory worker who dreams about becoming a writer and goes into a public toilet every morning because it is the only space which she has in which to write.”

The story symbolises the difficulties black women face in becoming published writers.

Dr Boswell published a novel, Grace, in 2017 that looked at intimate-partner violence in the 1980s.

“Many still see black women as second-class citizens and therefore think it is acceptable to abuse us, exclude us from political, social and artistic realms, and devalue us,” she says.

“That is why I write – to show that black women have a place and role in South Africa and in African literature.”

And Wrote My Story Anyway is available at bookstores and online.