“I imagined a dying person’s last breath as something resembling an exclamation mark, distinct and hanging mid-air like an interrupted thought. My older sister Fikile’s last breath before she dies is nothing of the sort. There is no rattling noise at the back of her throat. No relentless twitching. No clinging to life. Fikile dies with no more fuss than a switch of a light bulb.” — Nozizwe Jele
Nozizwe Jele first caught our attention with her debut novel “Happiness is a four letter word” and the subsequent movie, which both garnered massive acclaim. This was followed by an eight-year hiatus where we patiently waited for more.
Nozizwe did not disappoint. In our first podcast for the year, The Cheeky Natives sat down to discuss her latest novel “The Ones with Purpose.” A novel dealing with heartbreaking themes of grief, illness, mortality, family, rape culture, patriarchy and the ways in which substance abuse has far reaching effects on families.
The novel begins with the death of the oldest daughter, Fikile from cancer and captures the journey her younger sister Anele must undergo as the family’s bona fide caretaker.
Their youngest sibling Mbuso has long distanced himself from his family, a swift exit that only patriarchy would facilitate while the rest of the family has to deal with Fikile’s death and Ma’s previously messy past. There are many difficult questions posed by this book, questions of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Although the book is centred around the women in this book, Jele doesn’t exempt the men. From the philandering husband to the younger brother lost to his rage, there is something poignantly relatable to the storytelling in this book.
The Cheeky Natives sat down to discuss the themes of the book but also to have a broader conversation regarding the art of writing difficult themes and what it means to craft stories that sit with readers long after they’ve finished reading your book.
In a conversation filled with many laughs, sadness but also as our beloved aunty Oprah would put it “lightbulb moments”.