I have taken a picture of my recent youth book entitled: “Akulahlwa Mbeleko Ngakufelwa.” This is a Xhosa idiom loosely translated to: Do not give up.

As writers, we are always labeled by many things like ‘professional liars’. That is what my friend would jokingly say after reading one of my books.

“You make something that is not true seem so authentic as if it happened for real,” he once said. The others said writers are like prophets; they seem to have this ability to peep through into the chambers of the future and see what is to happen. Well, I don’t know how to respond to that.

My publisher’s call was to write about challenges that young people found themselves facing and how they can survive the ordeal and come out of it a better person. I thought about death in a family, not just any random death, but death caused by cancer. My people have this tendency of never talking about that disease. They dread it so much that one seldom hears the mention of that word ‘umhlaza’ (cancer) in the house. It is like inviting that sickness, as my grandmother would warn us. “Don’t say it! Never say that word in this house.”

In my book Sinomtha, a sixteen year old intelligent girl is devastated when her father dies before buying her the guitar he promised her. Sinomtha is determined to be a singer. Her father has been her pillar of strength. She had to go through so much pain, the twists and turns in the book, but eventually she triumphs and her dream is fulfilled. She is a young go-getter; she does not succumb under life’s circumstances.

I cried and smiled while writing the book. The story line though humorous and funny here and there, was heavy even for me. Imagine a child going through that pain for real.

Suddenly barely two months after finishing my book, my father is diagnosed with prostate cancer. How cruel life can be? The oncologist rushed him for an operation, removed everything. We hoped for the better. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread to the bone. Two years later, after watching him groaning in pain, he died at home. I was in that room, I held his hand as I tried to cover his cold limp body.

While looking and tending after my sick ailing father that book became my comforter. It felt as though I was not the writer. I could understand for real what my character had gone through. It was now no longer a theory but a practical situation. When I felt sad and overwhelmed the book became my source of comfort. I knew the stages the sickness would take, remember I had researched it thoroughly for a book, but now I was living it.

So this book is one thing that I possess with pride. Life has its way of preparing us before calamity strikes so that when it finally does, you are not completely crushed.