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Wordsetc Journal

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Hope: Fourth edition of Wordsetc hits bookshelves

Wordsetc Four

By turning to books to tell his complicated life story, Barack Obama successfully sold his grand vision for his country that would otherwise have viewed him as too exotic, and perhaps, unelectable, because of his race and Islamic name.

This fourth edition of Wordsetc, South Africa’s foremost literary journal, looks at the life of the US President-elect through the prism of literature. Inside Obama the politician there’s Obama the writer. The edition also looks at what he stands for and the unprecedented results of the 2008 US presidential election. In addition to the main profile, there are plenty of in-depth essays offering different perspectives on what Obama represents.

Contents at a glance

In the main profile Wordsetc editor and publisher Phakama Mbonambi notes that Obama used a stirring memoir (Dreams From My Father) to sell his life story and convince a sceptical electorate that his name and heritage may be exotic to a US audience but he was, in fact, electable to the ultimate public office – the Oval Office. His roots as a writer are also explored, with his mother looming large.

In a lyrical essay “A Most Divisive Election”, Mike Sager, Wordsetc editor at large and guest editor of this edition, notices that tensions ran high in the 2008 US presidential election, a sign that America had yet to deal with myriad social issues. He sees Obama as offering hope to his own biracial child that he could be anything he wanted.

Juan Williams, a bestselling author and one of America’s leading political commentators, says in “A message for all the world, that Obama’s achievement the fulfilment of a dreams of those who marched and suffered for civil rights in the 1960s, the Moses generation. He sees Obama as the leader of the Joshua generation, his rise a beacon of hope worldwide.

In Personal Notes, Jacob Dlamini, a journalist studying towards a PhD in History at Yale University, takes an active interest in the 2008 election unlike in 2000 and 2004. While the US fascinates him, it also alienates him. As a result, he has learned to take US life in small doses.

South African writer Barbara Nussbaum sees Barack Obama as the embodiment of ubuntu by his constant stressing humanity’s interconnectedness. She advises that, in honouring Obama, Africa must be grateful for giving the world the wonderful concept of ubuntu.

In his essay, “It all seems like a show”, Andrew P. Jones, a US writer, academic and filmmaker based in Johannesburg, takes a discordant view. He doesn’t think Obama’s victory holds much significance for the liberation of Black people in the US.

In our fiction section, Sandisile Tshuma offers a wonderful short story (“Arrested Development”) about surviving the hardships of Zimbabwe.

There’s all this and more – literary travel, book reviews, a restaurant review and listings pages. It’s a jam-packed edition that will satisfy literature lovers and those keen to know more about Obama.

For an interview with publishing editor Phakama Mbonambi, or to excerpt any of the stories from Wordsetc, please contact him on 083 287 1955 or

See website at or Facebook group called Wordsetc. Wordsetc is available at bookshops (Exclusive Books, CNA and many independent bookstores such as Boekehuis, Kalk Bay Books, Clarke’s Bookstore, Protea Books and The Book Lounge). It retails for R49.95.

Cover art courtesy Shephard Fairey of California USA.


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    January 8th, 2009 @11:44 #

    Something fans of Obama - and Wordsetc might be interested in: the official inaugural poster is captioned "Be the Change" (a la Mahatma Ghandi: ), features Shepard Fairey art, and is now available for sale:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    January 8th, 2009 @12:42 #

    Phakama, thanks for sending me the most recent copy of Wordsetc -- a great read for the New Year. (People, subscribe -- it's so nice to get snailmail that isn't a bill or a traffic fine.)


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