2015 Tutu Fellow Kopano Matlwa is releasing her third novel, titled Period Pain. Matlwa, who is a medical doctor, is the author of Coconut, which sold 25,000 copies. The award-winning novel established her as one of South Africa's most vibrant young writers. It also garnered a European Union Literary Award in 2007. She followed it up with Spilt Milk, which won the Wole Soyinka Prize for literature in 2010.
Period Pain is about the heartache and confusion experienced by so many South Africans facing the difficulties of xenophobia, rape, corruption and crime set against the backdrop of the nation's ailing public health system.
Matlwa is quoted as saying "I could never choose between medicine and writing. Anton Chekhov said, 'Medicine is my wife, and writing my mistress', and that makes complete sense to me. I love them both. As a doctor you have the unique privilege of listening to people's stories. They tell you things they would never tell anyone else. I care deeply about people's stories, so for me medicine and writing make sense together."
Here is a short exerpt from Period Pain:
I had to leave theatre this morning because I’d developed such severe menstrual cramps I could hardly keep myself from falling over and contaminating the entire operative field. It was odd. Although my periods had reduced to little more than spotting after the endometrial ablation, the monthly cramps had persisted like clockwork, maybe as a reminder that the beast is not dead, only sleeping. Doctor Sage said I should unscrub and go put my head down in the Anaesthetics tea room until the next case arrives. While I was in there I texted Nyasha and asked if she could bring me Ibuprofen from the emergency department. Sister Dlamini sat across the room, watching us as Nyasha took two tablets out of her pocket and offered me her bottled water. I could see she wanted to say something, but I couldn’t have anticipated the words that came out of her mouth.
‘Sies doctor!’ she exclaimed. ‘O na le sebete ne? Batho ba ga se batho. You can get sick drinking from their bottles.’
I couldn’t believe she could say that right in front of Nyasha.
‘She’s just dumb,’ I mumbled to Nyasha as she picked up her stuff and prepared to head back to the emergency department.
Nyasha shrugged. ‘It’s just a period South Africa’s in,’ she said matter-of-factly. ‘Growing pains.’
‘Like period pain,’ I said, trying to make a joke.
‘Yeah.’ She gave me a weak smile. ‘Like period pain.’
The launch of the novel is taking place in New Doornfontein on 3 November 2016. The covers of her previous two novels are below.