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October 2012
About the book: 
At the instigation of the sciolist, Toloki, the professional mourner introduced in Zakes Mda's early novel Ways of Dying, takes the opportunity to travel the world in search of new ways of mourning. He finds himself abandoned in Athens Ohio, but a chance meeting with a Halloween reveller leads him to the poor hamlet of Kilvert, home to descendants of fugitive slaves. A community of traditional quiltmakers, the people of Kilvert, and notably the Quigley family, offer Toloki hospitality while never completely coming to terms with what they regard as his shamanistic attributes. From them he learns the stories told by the quilts and the secrets held by the sycamores - ghost trees that are the carriers of memories - and he becomes aware that this is a community which strives to keep alive their past in order to validate the present. They cannot let go, for the past is all they have. And it is through the quilts and the sycamores and the messages they carry that the old story is told of the slaves in the plantations of the south and their eternal quest to escape and find their freedom, interwoven with the story of life in present-day Kilvert. It is also a time of growth for Toloki, bringing about a softening of his former austerity and enabling him to determine the path his future will take.
Other titles by this author 
About the Author
Zakes Mda is the author of the novels Ways of Dying and The Heart of Redness, among many others. He was born in the Eastern Cape, but spent his early childhood in Soweto, finishing his school education in Lesotho.
He is a prolific writer of novels, plays, poems and articles for academic journals and newspapers, and his writing has been translated into twenty languages. His creative work also includes painting, and theatre and film productions. Mda, whose forebears were exiled from Qumbu to Lesotho after the assassination of Hamilton Hope, is a recipient of South Africa’s Order of Ikhamanga. He is based in Athens, Ohio, where he spends his time writing and teaching.

Photograph credit: Jim Shirey

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