Title: The Writing Circle
Author: Rozena Maart
Awards: Journey Prize
Yearly Count: 25
The Writing Circle is a group of five women who live in Cape Town, South Africa and gather every Friday as a group of women, looking for the strength that in their community only comes from unity and protecting each other. A place where they who cannot trust are surrounded by each other, therefore embracing their loss, and while participating gain the friendships they hold. Healing comes to a halt one night as the rest of the women are gathered together, one of the circle members Isabel, is late, they start without her, and she is raped in her car in front of her very own house. The members of the group hear a gunshot, and from that moment the question will be: can they survive this common scab being scratched and picked at, or will the pressure and soreness cause hatred from within the group?
Maart leads the reader though that night and the following days. This was a group of women, united through experience, yet different in most everything else, who are filled with a desire to live their lives, and hope for a future that is better than their past. The Writing Circle cries out for women all over, but especially in places where they are not allowed to speak out on their own. Rozena Maart brings up difficult subject matters facing her nation today, the ramifications of apartheid, racism and segregation, rape, incest and calls forth life into the souls of these raped and silenced women, she gives a voice to the women of the world whose lives parallel the women of The Writing Circle, but have not had the chance to let it off their shoulders.
It is easy to hear that Maart's every desire is for the people of her nation, and others like it around the world, to open closed ears stunned by an ugly tradition. That all people of all races would listen to the cries of women and girls and to heed the suffering that surrounds them is real and needs attention. The dark and horrid secrets of uncles, fathers, and husbands shriek out from Rozena Maart's The Writing Circle.
This book is a novel, but it is not based on fiction, but fact, as South Africa is one of the nations with the highest number of reported rapes (and estimated 500,000 cases of rape every year!) The law pass system, is one that becomes a breeding venue for rape and incest. The men are removed from the homes, placed in hostel like locations in the city thus leaving families unprotected in the country. Before that apartheid. Those in power feel the freedom to do as they please with their supposed inferiors. When those angry, powerless inferiors became free...things did not improve in the aspect of women's voice.
Hope returns, it always does. Dark days turn bright, and South Africa has begun taking steps of action against this problem. Good things are on their way!
If you are interested in articles on the situation in South Africa:
South Africa Begins Getting Tough on Rape
Tackling South Africa's Rape Culture
Rape Survivor Journal- Rape Stats for South Africa and Worldwide
The Writing Circle:
Reviews of The Writing Circle on TSAR Publications