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Pan Macmillan

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Chris van Wyk Discusses South Africa’s Reading Culture and What Inspired Him to Write His Memoir

Shirley, Goodness & MercyEggs to Lay, Chickens to HatchChris van Wyk spoke to Hadrien Diez from Africa Book Club about how he became a writer, South Africa’s reading culture and the growing market for African fiction.

Van Wyk said that he wrote Shirley, Goodness & Mercy, a memoir of his childhood, after being inspired by Frank McCourt’s memoir, Angela’s Ashes. He spoke about how he was surprised that members of the Riverlea township where he grew up read his book, but said that there were others who were in the book that told him “they were not curious to read the book because, well, they just didn’t like wasting their time reading.”

Read the full interview:

You grew up in a township where books were a rare commodity. Where does your fascination for literature come from?

Books were not as rare as you think. Riverlea, the township where I grew up, did have a fairly well-stocked library despite Apartheid. Added to that, my parents were readers. When I saw how much fun they derived from it, I began reading too. And I was fortunate to have teachers in my formative first three years of school who also encouraged reading.

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