Because I Couldn't Kill You - On Her Feminist Struggle, Missing Father And The Myths Of Memory (Paperback)


In the shattered fantasy of rainbow-nation South Africa, there are many uncomfortable truths. Among these are family secrets - the legacies of traumas in the homes and bones of ordinary South African families.

In this debut collection, feminist and Khoi San activist Kelly-Eve Koopman grapples with the complex beauty and brutality of the everyday as she struggles with her family legacy. She tries unsuccessfully to forget her father - a not-so-prominent journalist and anti-apartheid activist, desperately mentally ill and expertly emotionally abusive - who has recently disappeared, leaving behind a wake of difficult memories. Mesmerisingly, Koopman wades through the flotsam and jetsam of generations, among shipwrecks and sunken treasures, in an attempt at familial and collective healing.

Sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious, she faces up to herself as a brown, newly privileged "elder millennial", caught between middle-class aspirations and social justice ideals. An artist, a daughter, a queer woman in love, she is in pursuit of healing, while trying to lose those last 5 kilograms, to the great disappointment of her feminist self.


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In the shattered fantasy of rainbow-nation South Africa, there are many uncomfortable truths. Among these are family secrets - the legacies of traumas in the homes and bones of ordinary South African families.

In this debut collection, feminist and Khoi San activist Kelly-Eve Koopman grapples with the complex beauty and brutality of the everyday as she struggles with her family legacy. She tries unsuccessfully to forget her father - a not-so-prominent journalist and anti-apartheid activist, desperately mentally ill and expertly emotionally abusive - who has recently disappeared, leaving behind a wake of difficult memories. Mesmerisingly, Koopman wades through the flotsam and jetsam of generations, among shipwrecks and sunken treasures, in an attempt at familial and collective healing.

Sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious, she faces up to herself as a brown, newly privileged "elder millennial", caught between middle-class aspirations and social justice ideals. An artist, a daughter, a queer woman in love, she is in pursuit of healing, while trying to lose those last 5 kilograms, to the great disappointment of her feminist self.

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A dazzling, brave debut memoir that leaves no stone unturned. To say that Koopman is a wordsmith is a gross understatement. She has such an obvious, passionate love affair with the English language that it makes the reader often feel like an uninvited trespasser, a voyeur; her writing is that inexplicably intimate and soulfully seductive. She arranges words on the page, sometimes stacking them neatly like her auntie’s prized Tupperware and other times scattering them haphazardly like her high-octane emotions on a particularly ‘bad day’. But they are always poetic, always lyrical, always resonating with some part of the reader’s needy soul. Koopman writes of her struggles with racial identification as a woman of colour in South Africa. While this may appear, on the surface, appear to exclude a certain segment of the reading population, the themes of ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’ are universal. This book does, however, demand to be read by all South Africans, across all colour lines. She also writes eloquently and courageously about transgenerational legacies and the need to understand the origins of our inherent assets and flaws. Her tender observations of the women who have gone before her helping her, as she traverses (sometimes literally) the road to defining her own identity. Koopman digs deeply into the traumas and unspoken legacies of her family. She tries to forget her father – an abusive, mentally ill man – but his inconsistent, unexpected reappearances into her life and the manifestations of her own mental illness, leaves her with more unanswered questions about how this ghost of a man truly haunts her on a cellular level. On the page, she also wrestles with her sexual identity, her amorphous expressions of love and striking a balance between her social and feminist ideals versus the reality she finds herself in. No aspect of modern-day womanhood is left untouched and this book left the reader questioning, examining, indelibly touched and utterly breathless. Desiree-Anne Martin Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.




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