A note from the publisher, Azad Essa.

The losses. The heartaches. The loneliness. The economic struggles. A year of a million untouchable intimacies. It’s been hard; for others a never-ending-life-changing nightmare.

For useless people like myself, unable to save lives at clinics or hospitals, we have tried to produce some material to keep people informed.

And over the last six months, nothing has been more important to me than creating this children’s book ‘Duma Says’ – a bid to educate & empower and most importantly re-imagine the difficulties of the current moment.

azad and Duma

I was reporting in parts of Queens and the Bronx during the first wave of the pandemic, where so many people live in tight, constrained conditions, where access to health care is often limited; so many lives were destroyed in these two parts of New York City no more than a handful of miles away from the richest streets on earth.

I still don’t think we have actually understood the level of devastation experienced by the working poor in these neighborhoods during the early days. And, still, all I could think about was home.

Over several conversations with Nathi Ngubane, we decided to create books for those erased from the conversation – kids from informal settlements – who live without running water or electricity or unlimited internet. These kids who had no one to help them with ‘home schooling’ because parents were cleaners, or refuse workers, or selling vegetables at the taxi rank.

We decided that should we struggle to get the books to them, we would make sure others would not pass through this pandemic without knowing how the rest were still living.

This is how ‘Duma Says’ was born.

And Nathi took over, writing and illustrating the entire series.

And after donations and support from characters from all over, the paperback is done. And out. And it looks so damn good. (Because it was designed by Samina Anwary)

The digital versions are free. And you can find it on the Dept of Health’s website (zero cost on data) or on Social Bandit Media’s website or a host of reading apps for kids, or on other channels like the Centre for African Studies at Harvard, or NYC School Library System.

Parts of it is available in braille, in isiZulu & isiXhosa and Kiswahili & French. We have tried to make so accessible online that when we sent it to print, we had to prove it was ours in the first place.

If you want the paperback, it will be available at Ike’s Books and Collectables in Durban and Ethnikids  in Jozi/PTA. Call them, pre-order it.

For those elsewhere, it is on Amazon & soon on bookshop.org so you can support local bookstores. I am happy to announce, too, that the collector’s edition has debuted on Amazon at #1 in the “Children’s homelessness and poverty” category on the book site.

All proceeds go to the Open Air School for special kids with some learning difficulties. My mum taught there for more than a decade and it’s also where I first met Nathi Ngubane, as a young high-schooler all those years ago, before he would become the masterful illustrator he is today.

If you want to help or support getting the book into schools or communities, do get in touch: info@socialbanditmedia.co.za

February 6, 2021