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Maverick Life, South Africa

AmaBookaBooka: Jennifer, Queen of the Free State (Podcast)

AmaBookaBooka: Jennifer, Queen of the Free State (Podcast)

This quirky and poignant memoir is a stirring read and a remarkable début. By JONATHAN ANCER.

Today’s AmaBookaBooka guest is the Queen of the Free State. She’s also Mamselle X, heroine of the French Resistance, and a vegetable-hating, frog-catching, dog-loving, piano-playing adventurer. She’s mischievous and inquisitive and while she may be a tough big sister – she’s a loyal friend.

Author Jennifer Friedman’s memoir Queen of the Free State is filled with laugh-out-loud funny stories (like the one about the blaspheming budgie) and stories that will make you cry (poor Sandy) about her childhood in the Orange Free State more than half a century ago.

The book is like a giant puzzle – each chapter is a self-contained story that is a piece of the puzzle. When all the chapters are put together you have a rich and poignant memoir about midnight escapes, banned comics, hideous encounters with bras, terrifying policemen, icy drives with Grandpa and growing up Jewish in a small town in the Orange Free State in the 1950s and 1960s. Friedman has captured extraordinary details – colours, smells, sights, tastes – that provide a front row seat to her childhood.

One of my favourite stories in the book is how Friedman hid a frog in her mouth – and if you were ever curious about what frog wee tastes like, you really should do yourself a favour and listen to this episode of AmaBookaBooka. (Actually, even if you aren’t curious about what frog wee tastes like, you should still do yourself a favour and listen to this episode – and buy the book.)

In this week’s Self-Publishing corner at the end of the episode, Dave Henderson talks about what it means to be a self-publishing author in Africa. Interested in self-publishing? Visit the website for regular news. DM


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