Motswana Writer Gothataone Moeng just released her debut collection of short stories on February 7 with Viking in the US. Titled Call and Response, Moeng’s collection includes beautifully crafted stories about the lives of ordinary women as they navigate relationships, tradition, and caretaking in contemporary Botswana. It is set to be published by Oneworld on October 5 in the UK.
According to the publisher’s synopsis, Moeng’s stories are “strongly anchored in place” and set in two distinct locations: the village of Serowe, where Moeng herself is from, and the city of Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. The stories all involve various emotional journeys of women “seeking love and opportunity beyond the barriers of custom and circumstance.”
Read the summaries of some of the short stories below:
A young widow adheres to the expectations of wearing mourning clothes for nearly a year, though she’s unsure what the traditions mean or whether she is ready to meet the world without their protection. An older sister returns home from a confusing time in America, only to explain at every turn why she’s left the land of opportunity. A younger sister hides her sexual exploits from her family, while her older brother openly flaunts his infidelity.
Call and Response features some of the strongest and most unforgettable female protagonists we have come across so far. Based on her debut collection, Moeng appears to be a gifted writer who is able to provide insight into communities and landscapes with sensitivity and grace. We cannot wait to see what she publishes next!
In an NPR interview, Moeng remarks that the characters in her stories are inspired by real women in her family and home village of Serowe, specifically in the “Botalaote, “which is where she is from. She says, “All of these seem very similar to women within my own family – you know, my cousins, my sisters, my aunties. So for sure, I would say that, yes, I do know women like this and girls like this.”
Moeng adds that the stories in her collection feature a tension between tradition and modernity, one that cannot be easily resolved:
I think that in this story and in the other stories in the collection,… some of the women are trying to move away from these traditions that they feel are out of step with their modern life. But they also sometimes find that the longing for some of those customs offer them something that they cannot get from modern life.
Gothataone Moeng was born in Serowe, Botswana and lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Mississippi. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction, a Summer Workshop scholar at Tin House, and an Emerging Writer Fellow at A Public Space. She is currently at work on a novel, so stay tuned for more details.
If you are a fan of African women’s fiction and stories with strong female protagonists such as Scholastique Mukasonga’s The Barefoot Woman and Onyi Nwabineli’s Someday, Maybe, then we highly recommend you add Call and Response to your cart ASAP!