Author debuts book on journey of self-discovery

Entrepreneur, philanthropist and academic, Tando Keke, released her debut non-fiction book, The Strength of a Real Woman, with a launch at Harry’s Printers on February 24.

Keke, originally from East London, left the country for China before the first wave of Covid-19, following the untimely death of her father.

Bereft and grieving, Keke entered a period she describes as an identity crisis and left East London to grieve and rediscover herself.

While teaching in China, she was both awed and appalled by Chinese beliefs in the social value of women and their perspectives on beauty, femininity and love.

Through her interactions with people in her host country, she also became more aware of the prejudice people of colour experience in South East Asia.

Inspired by both the aspirational and traumatic aspects of emigration, Keke took pen to paper and turned her insights into a debut collection of auto-biographical reflections that consider life, love and everything in between.

Keke said “Being a black expatriate South African woman in Asia, you feel the reality of this social position, people constantly draw attention to your skin colour, your hair, your body shape and everything that is different about you.

“It was important to me to write from this perspective, having been constantly bombarded with vastly inaccurate and traumatic narratives about who I was perceived to be in the society I was living in.

“It was important for me to reclaim my voice and to tell my own story from the perspective of the black African woman going through the objectification, micro-aggressions, biases and stereotyping in Asia.

“It was very funny to me on the day I taught my first class in China, the students and their parents asked me if I was married. They explained to me that in their culture marriage is important.

“When I revealed that I was over 30 and not married, this caused a lot of confusion. I received a lot of questions regularly as to why I was not married, and these questions made me feel very displaced and alienated.

“I needed to write this book as a shield against this and as a guidebook to woman who may be feeling the same as I do that love comes in many forms not only in the expression of romantic love.

“The book goes into love as a presence. I spent my whole life trying to find love in a person but my romantic relationships in the past never really contained a love that was kind, let alone sustainable.

“I think a lot of people go through the same thing, looking for someone to love, or someone to love them.

“I have discovered in my unveiling of love as a presence, not a person, that the presence of unconditional love has healed me, and been a major catalyst for growth in my life. I want to share these encounters with my readers.”

The book took eight months to write. It was initially released online as a blog until Keke decided to release it as physical work earlier this year.

The book travails across jarring personal experiences that involves sexual assault, violence and grief yet these hardships are captured in prose that remains humorous and insightful.

Keke said, “I want readers to take away from the book that no matter what you have been through in your life, you are not defined by what happened to you, by what other people think of you, by where you come from.

“You have agency to decide what you want your life to be.”

In future, Keke hopes to be a full-time author and intends to establish skills development centres and places of refuge for vulnerable women

NEW RELEASE: Tando Keke can’t wait to share her debut book. Picture: TAMMY FRAY


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