MaThoko's Books is the publishing imprint of Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (Gala). Launched in 2011, the imprint aims to be a corrective to the limited publishing support for queer writing in Africa and to act as a springboard for emerging and marginalised voices. It also provides a much needed publishing outlet for scholarly works on LGBTQIA+ related themes.
MaThoko's Books was founded on a belief that the sharing of stories can help to challenge homophobia and transphobia. The imprint is committed to publishing high quality writing that not only helps to educate the public about sexuality and gender identity but that also promotes human rights on the African continent.
In 2014, Queer Africa – the first fiction title from MaThoko's Books – took home a Lambda Literary Award (Anthology Category). It remains the only book produced on the African continent to be recognised in this way. For more information on this remarkable achievement, please click here.
Who is MaThoko
The imprint is inspired by the life of MaThoko, an ordinary South African woman with a remarkable capacity to love. MaThoko ran an illegal tavern in KwaThema in the 1980s and early 1990s – a time when homosexuality was illegal in South Africa. Although heterosexual herself, MaThoko welcomed young LGBTQIA+ people into her home, aware that many of them had been disowned by their families and forced out of school. MaThoko's house became an important meeting place for LGBTQIA+ people and the headquarters of the KwaThema branch of the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW), the first mass black gay and lesbian organisation in South Africa. Lesbian icon and activist, Phumi Mtetwa, recalls the important role that MaThoko's house played during her political awakening:
Finding MaThoko coincided with my activism at school, and my mother's nightmare dealing with the situation of me being a lesbian. I could not sleep at home some days – either because I was in hiding from the authorities, or fighting with my mom. I would sleep at MaThoko's. You would see everyone there – gays, lesbians, trans. There was always a blanket for you.
The imprint's logo is derived from the post box that stood outside of MaThoko's home during this turbulent time. LGBTQIA+ people from all over South Africa used this post box to reach out and make contact with GLOW. The post box is now on permanent loan from GALA to the Apartheid Museum. MaThoko's post box was recently featured in the "Radical Objects" series curated by History Workshop Journal. Please click here to read the full article.