Sugar Town Queens (Malla Nunn, A&U)
Sugar Town Queens is a young adult coming-of-age novel by Malla Nunn, author of When the Ground is Hard. Her latest book follows 15-year-old Amandla, who is mixed-raced and growing up in Sugar Town, one of South Africa’s many townships. Money is the only way out and when Amandla discovers that her mother comes from money, she begins to wonder why they are stuck in Sugar Town instead of Durban. Amandla sets out to uncover the truth about her wealthy white family. Sugar Town Queens strikes the perfect balance between character- and plot-driven story. Through her quest for the truth, Amandla, who has always lived in a form of isolation, slowly begins to realise the power of community and Ubuntu, the Zulu philosophy that a person is a person because of other people. Newfound friendship helps to create newfound family. Nunn does a phenomenal job at incorporating Zulu culture, tradition and language into the novel—these aspects of life have a significant impact on how the characters communicate, interact and live. Nunn also makes a point to talk about South Africa post-Mandela and the difficulties of bringing together a nation so divided by race and wealth. Like recent similarly politically charged YA novels The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I Am Change by Suzy Zail, context is given for these topics so they’re easy to understand but never feel separate to the main story. In Sugar Town Queens Amandla’s South Africa is both beautiful and deeply flawed, much like those she loves.
Tracy-Kate Simambo is a poet and former Djed Press mentee. Read her interview with Malla Nunn about Sugar Town Queens here.