‘There’s been a huge amount of mystery surrounding my family’ – Watch Joanne Joseph chatting about her new book Children of Sugarcane
More about the book!
Joanne Joseph recently launched her debut novel Children of Sugarcane.
Iman Rappetti chatted to Joseph about her book at a launch event at Exclusive Books, calling it ‘a delicious adventure’.
Vividly set against the backdrop of 19th-century India and the British-owned sugarcane plantations of Natal, written with great tenderness and lyricism, Children of Sugarcane paints an intimate and wrenching picture of indenture told from a woman’s perspective.
Rappetti asked Joseph about the spark for the book: her great-great-grandmother, Athilatchmy Velu Naicken.
‘Essentially the story started nine years ago, with my digging into the ancestry on my maternal side,’ Joseph explains. ‘There’s been a huge amount of mystery surrounding my family, surrounding the background to how they came to be in South Africa …’
Joseph’s great-great-grandmother travelled to South Africa from Chennai, India, when she was very young.
‘The idea that a young woman would willingly leave her home without a chaperone, without any kind of older family member, especially a male family member, travelling with her, take this arduous journey with her younger siblings to a continent that was entirely foreign to them, where not even their mother tongue would have been widely spoken, it struck me as being quite astonishing. Why would she have done it in the first place?’ Josephs says.
‘I began to dig around in the archives to see what the possible reason could have been. Of course there aren’t any clear reasons with regard to her life specifically, but history has left a number of interesting trails and vestiges that give you an idea of what might have prompted her to do so.’
Watch the fascinating conversation here: