Queer Books: Touch & Robert Hamblin’s memoir


As we continue to face our pandemic-fraught realities, books have become even more valued tools to entertain, escape and enlighten.

Two newly-published South African non-fiction queer books are further expanding our insights into sexuality and gender by sharing powerful, authentic and sexy real-life experiences.

Touch: Sex, Sexuality and Sensuality,

What comes to mind when you think about sex? That’s what Touch, a new non-fiction collection from Kwela, explores: sex as a vast, yet intertwined experience with oneself and between people. It delves into the ways in which sex features in our lives.

Sex can be fun, tricky, and heart-breaking, and this book covers all this and much more. Compiled by Tiffany Kagure Mugo and Kim Windvogel, the pieces are real, expressive, cathartic and dare we say it, sexy.

It draws on the experiences of sex from people across genders, sexualities – even borders – who unflinchingly share their experiences with the reader.

Touch includes contributions from the likes of Nakhane, Mia Arderne, Siya Khumalo, Lwando Scott, Amanda Hodgeson, Roché Kester, Jamil F. Khan, Katlego K Kolanyane- Kesupile, Sarah Franc, Eliana N’Zualo, Siv Greyson, Githan Coopoo, Nickita Maesela, Lester Walbrugh, Janine Samuels, Zanta Nkumane, and more.

Thami Dish says of the book: “I realise, after reading this book, how vulnerable I have to be with myself because sex is the truth. This book is fucking fantastic!”

Kaz, TED Fellow and host of The Spread Pod, describes Touch as “Moving, well put together and very much needed. Kudos to all the authors who were bold enough to share the stories many of us hide.”

Tiffany Kagure Mugo is co-founder and curator of HOLAA! a Pan-African hub that advocates for, and tackles issues surrounding African female sexuality and is the author of Quirky Quick Guide to Having Great Sex (2020).

Kim Windvogel is a human rights defender, author, graduate from UCT, co-founder and advocacy officer of FemmeProjects – an organisation that focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights. They previously compiled They Called Me Queer (2019).

Robert: A queer and crooked memoir for the not so straight and narrow

Robert Hamblin is an acclaimed South African artist, photographer, writer and transgender rights activist. His much awaited memoir Robert: A Queer & Crooked Memoir for the not so Straight or Narrow, traverses a childhood that has a cast of unique and marginalised characters.

There’s his queer conman father, his mother intent on pushing the feminine, there’s the mysterious Alexis, his teenage first love, who convinces him during his childhood, when he is still a girl, into the power of the feminine, and teaches him how to be a woman. He loses her when she disappears into the underworld of the Joburg sex industry.

Robert is also about secrets and lies. It’s about excavating the truth in a time in a South Africa where the law and the church decided which body could love another, based on colour or gender, who got to have power and who had to pander to it.

The memoir explores the violence of men both in Apartheid South Africa as well as within Robert’s family, and the pressures and confines of the straight trajectory.

Along the way, Robert transitions in his 30s from female to male. Throughout his journey, the author is bent on seeing what it is that real humans all around him are really doing. He is drawn to people who embrace humanity, pursue love and happiness despite the limited frameworks dictated by a patriarchal consumerist racist system.

Robert is ultimately a book about confronting and healing from gender confines and racism, embracing a family that refuses to buckle to convention, whose ethos is love.

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