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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

With all the hype around #Booktok, it’s been super fun to see all these new writers reach viral status with their works! New books are dropping all the time and it’s never been a better time to try out some new writers. South African fiction has been booming in a big way. We’re seeing more and more stories set in and around South Africa written by South African writers. Even when these stories aren’t set in South Africa – especially in fictional fantasy settings, it’s always fun to open up a book and see a fellow South African’s name on the front cover! South African writing is so incredibly special to me as both an avid reader/writer and being South African born and raised myself. So, I’ve compiled a list of some fiction specially curated to factor in South African writers and a South African setting.

First up, I need to talk about the crime noir novel; Mermaid Fillet by Mia Arderne. It’s a nitty gritty novel set in a Cape Town that’s both familiar but also intensely unfamiliar with its wild, weird, and wonderful fantasy aspects. This book is quite dark so be careful and check the trigger warnings before you open up this book. This piece of fiction is super funny, full of life and doesn’t take itself seriously even in the face of freakish and occasionally concerning circumstances – a very South African approach in my opinion. It’s full of familiar Cape Town vernacular and makes for an interesting read if you’re like me and grew up surrounded by Afrikaaps. (A dialect of Afrikaans)

Another book set in Cape Town is On That Wave of Gulls by Vernon R.L Head. The story explores Cape Town from an interesting point-of-view; you’ll quickly discover the importance of birds to this story and for Cape Town. You’ll find familiar places such as Robben Island and Table Mountain mentioned. The novel seems to almost blur the line between fiction and non-fiction gloriously and shows us glimpse into the lives of our three main characters in a deeply personal way. South Africa as a setting is super interesting and allows an element of familiarity, but there are also South African writers who don’t set their novels in South Africa but are still super fun reads!

Lauren Beukes is a South African writer that has several popular books published, one of those is Afterland. Afterland is a feminist thriller which reimagines the world and society as we know it. It features a mother and son as the two main characters who are desperately attempting to flee from America to their home in South Africa in the wake of a pandemic that has killed off the majority of the men in the world. If you’re someone who enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale, I’d argue you’d love this book too.

For those fantasy fans, the V.E Schwab, Hafsah Faizal and Leigh Bardugo readers, you also have to take a look at the Selene trilogy. With two books of the trilogy already published, you’re sure to enjoy this romantic and adventurous fantasy also written by South African writer; Shameez Patel Papathanasiou. It’s got all the tropes we love from fantasy and best of all you’re supporting local – which is always super important.

South Africa is full of amazing art and the fictional world is no exception, there’s definitely more South African writers out there worth checking out but I do hope these suggestions encourage you to open a new book and enter a whole new world of South African fiction!

Nuhaa Isaacs is a Cape Town born and raised student at the University of Cape Town. She is currently studying toward a BA triple majoring in English Literary Studies, Media and Writing as well as Gender Studies. She has been a staff writer for Her Campus UCT since 2021, and a current member of the Social Media Sub-committee at Her Campus UCT. Sappy romantic fantasy novels and incredibly specific Spotify playlists are everything to her (as well as her three cats: Zuri, Shelley and Peanut). You can find her on Instagram (@nuhaa_i) or Tiktok (@nuhaaorwhatever) probably posting silly little outfit videos. Get in touch via email for any formal inquiries: nuhaa.isaacs@gmail.com.