I was definitely excited at the prospect of getting to know my biggest celebrity crush through his own words.
The book instantly ushered me into a story of a young boy, who grew up to be the man that we all enjoy being entertained by, every single day on social media.
In his memoir, it’s clear from the very beginning that he had made the decision to speak candidly about his journey even though it’s been seared with both hardships and triumphs.
From the very first page I was already enthralled. I grew a deep affection for the whole start actually, as it dives into an introduction of an almost dreamy rendition of Dutywini; the village where Khaya along with his cousins were raised by his grandparents.
But in the chapters that follow, in true Khaya Dlanga style, he quickly confronts the uncomfortable and undeniable truth, that village life is often hard and unfair for those who continue to live there out of circumstance.
Deeply challenging the distorted belief that the rural areas are still an ideal place for black people to live and raise children, even with scarce access to resources that instead seem to breed delinquency out of its youth.
By page 3, I was already laughing out loud; recognizing the familiar and abundantly humorous writing style that I know him by. The light-heartedness frequents throughout the whole book, serving as such a natural link between the popular personality we enjoy and the experiences that have aided him to acquire all his success. I really appreciated that in all the chapters you loudly hear his distinct voice.
I’m also incredibly grateful that I am Xhosa because that ensured that there weren’t any words, sentences or idioms that were lost in translation for me. Sadly I must admit that even though a good job is done attempting to interpret but I observed that there will always be a limitation to fully expressing one’s mother tongue in English.
Again as a Xhosa person I gained so much knowledge behind a whole lot that goes behind the mannerisms of young boys and older men in our culture. Things I had previously absentmindedly dismissed as ‘just one of those things that the opposite sex do’ without taking the time to consider their meanings at a deeper level.
A unique trait that I enjoyed the most is that the chapters are quite short, themed and also seem to have an intentional flow from introduction to conclusion. The endings were certainly distinctively unique by deliberately summing up beautifully the life lessons of each of the stories he chooses to share.
One of the things that I absolutely admired, which consistently stood out for me when reading Khaya’s memoir was his memory for such intricate details, I really believe it helped structure his book into a distinguishable beginning, a steady middle and a striking end.
My most favorite chapter in the book is the one about his circumcision, maybe because it is an outright extension of his ‘ungovernability.’ But maybe, also because I strongly feel the whole chapter was necessary to shed some light on the relevance of the still practiced tradition, as well as making the distinction of when it is done right and when it isn’t. I actually felt a sincere sense of pride that he expressed an opinion even though speaking up publicly about the tradition is rebuked and shunned upon.
We might know Khaya Dlanga differently as those who only know him through his website, social media pages, and News24 column but the book demands that you take a closer look and really get to know and celebrate so much more about him.
Writing one’s story is never easy, having to expose even the parts of your life that you wouldn’t usually acknowledge out loud must be hard, but somehow Buti Khaya shares his version so effortlessly in a way that demands both appreciation and respect.
It is a beautiful story of determination and courage, a definite must read not only for his followers but for those who are on their own unique path of self-discovery.
Photo By: Lonwabo Zimela
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from reading memoirs/autobiographies? Is it your favorite genre to read?