If Joonie, Rayda Jacob’s latest book published in March this year, were a movie, it would have hit the circuit with all the warning letters - SNVLP in bold. Truculently, the P of prejudice would be more pronounced, bolder.
Joonie – she thinks her father, who is not really her father, wanted a boy to name Junaid when she instead came in his place – has packed a lot into her life. By the time she was 18, she’d experienced so much that other mortals would need at least two lifetimes to cope with.
Men come in and out of her life with the frequency of a heartbeat; one fathers her only child, she aborts the foetus of another and the book concludes with the murder of an abusive significant other.
She’s abused as a child, starting with the Uncle Lionel who lures her into his car, undoes his fly then asks her, a mere 7 year-old, to stroke it.
The Grassy Park of her youth comes alive through the author’s pen. The notorious Cape Flats jump out of the pages; the sweat, urine and violence all at once.
One wonders how Jacob’s Joonie could have fuelled the fires and fed into the stereotype had it hit the shelves during the height of a recent public furore over remarks by South Africa’s official ruling party spokeman to the effect that the country’s Western Cape province had an “over supply of coloureds” (mixed race people).
All that’s missing from these pages are the gap-toothed grins of the gangsters!
That it is penned by Rayda Jacobs will perhaps go a long way towards making it passable. It reads like a documentary.
This her tenth book, Jacobs, perhaps best remembered for her Confessions of a Gambler, has the ease – or is it complacency, of someone who has long arrived.
There’s no doubt the first person narrative that introduces the chapters works but her fiction confuses.
Granted, fiction, according to Webster’s New Explorer Dictionary and Thesaurus is 1) “something invented by the imagination and 2) fictitious literature (as novels)”.
Jacobs takes liberties here and it jars.
Her Reverend Martinus, another dirty old man who wants to have his salacious ways with Joonie, bears relevance. For this lapse in judgment, Joonie blackmails him. How much does she want – Ten Grand!
There’s a lot wrong with this figure because this happens in the days of District Six, when the Pound and the shilling were the currency.
His wife drinks, wait for it, Johnny Walker. This, remember, is the heyday of the skokiaan, the home brew.
The author wants Joonie to make R10 000 at the drop of a hat, like that, when her ‘father’ had worked his fingers to the bone to save R20 000 for either her university education or to buy the family a house.
She makes this windfall while her family still uses the poker to stir the coal-stove. Isn’t this the height of anachronism?
This is fiction, I hear you say, anything goes. Faction – fiction based on fact, could have worked better here. If you are familiar with the forced removals at places like District Six and Sophiatown, you can’t help but be perturbed by Jacob’s poetic license.
To enjoy this latest Jacobs offering, you need to forget about the history of South African politics, especially in the Cape.
Go with the flow and enjoy the tale of an abused kid who is unlucky in love and commutes between New Jersey and the Cape Flats in pursuit of a dream, however elusive. By the time she finds the one – Reggie, she’s already in her 50s and, sadly, he dies.
Joonie is published by Jacana Media and is slated to be available on Amazon in October 2011. Readers can sign up now to be notified when it’s available.
© makatilemedia 04/2011