Monday, October 02, 2017

If I Stay Right Here

When I attended the launch of Chwayita Ngamalana's debut novel I was distracted by the interviewer's obsession with the lesbian nature of the relationship at the book's core and the intrigue that surrounded the graphic sex scenes. Sure, the novel is definitely R18, but at the heart it is about an abusive relationship - which is far more fascinating.

Shay, a young journalist, meets Sip while writing a story and finds herself crossing all the lines as they start a passionate romance. The book follows their tumultuous relationship in raw detail. With ease, Ngamlana manages to capture the rhythm of the push and pull that characterises abusive relationships - contrasting the abusive episodes with the alluring qualities that make one stay.

It's an adventurous debut and anything but safe. It broaches abuse in homosexual relationships, something I don't think we talk about enough, and explores some very interesting and experimental literary techniques that made it stand out as a debut, for me.

I was initially distracted by Ngamlana's claim that it was 70% autobiographical, as I was trying to sift out the fact from fiction. Once I suspended my investigation I found myself engrossed in her characters. If you are not afraid of its subject matter it is worth a read.

I haven't read a local book that deals with the these themes in this fashion and I thought it was an incredibly brave starting point as an author. Ngamalana was bold and took a personal risk to write this novel. I am looking forward to seeing what she does next.

If I Stay Right Here by Chwayita Ngamlana (Blackbird Books, 2017)