Two years ago, at the Book Den, I picked up a copy of Beauty Boois’ debut novel /Namgu’s Escape Theory, excited to read a fictional work from a young Namibian author. We meet |Namgu at a transitional time in her life, as she moves from an affluent private boarding school in South Africa to a government school in her home country of Namibia. |Namgu faces many struggles in high school, including issues of self-acceptance that lead to her suffering from an eating disorder and eventually sinking into depression. As a young Khoekhoegowab woman, |Namgu also grapples with an inability to speak her native language, which causes a disconnection with her family. But then she meets Sophia, who enters |Namgu’s life like a breath of fresh air and brings an entirely new perspective into play. |Namgu not only finds a close companion in Sophia, but also gains a brand new and different outlook on life, which she admires.
As |Namgu transitions to university she chooses a double major in drama, which is her passion, and feels obliged to take psychology to try and appease her conservative African parents, especially her father, who had hopes of his daughter becoming a lawyer. This is yet another aspect of |Namgu’s life that young Africans will find relatable. |Namgu settles into her university life with a conservative Christian boyfriend and her free-spirited high school best friend, Sophia. However, tragedy strikes, causing |Namgu to interrupt her tertiary studies to seek mental help after attempting suicide.
Although fictional, this book is an important read that I hope will stir up uncomfortable conversations in African homes. This work delves into subjects that are far-ranging and important, including coping with traumatic experiences, culture, identity and psychological well-being.
Doek! Literary Magazine stated that “Her novel, /Namgu’s Escape Theory (UNAM Press, 2020), has been hailed as a landmark work of Namibian young adult literature that will thrill local and international readers.” And I would agree.
Beauty Boois is in a class of pioneering young African authors who are changing the narrative of the continent, telling our stories from our perspective boldly and fearlessly. I would go as far as to say that they are helping to change the African narrative, and Aimé Césaire would be proud. It is exciting that with each passing year more and more African authors are emerging on the literary scene, bringing with them new perspectives and fresh ideas about what it means to be African.