Always Another Country

By Sisonke Msimang

Born in exile, in Zambia, to a guerrilla father and a working mother, Sisonke Msimang is constantly on the move. Her parents, talented and highly educated, travel from Zambia to Kenya and Canada and beyond with their young family. Always the outsider, and against a backdrop of racism and xenophobia, Sisonke develops her keenly perceptive view of the world. In this sparkling account of a young girl’s path to womanhood, Sisonke interweaves her personal story with her political awakening in…
Read more about this book







Literary novel



Year of publication


Date of publication 4 September 2018


‘Brutally and uncompromisingly honest, Sisonke’s beautifully crafted storytelling enriches the already extraordinary pool of young African women writers of our time. Sisonke, a child of the Struggle, revisits the metamorphosis of the value system embraced by the liberation movements and emerges as a powerful free spirit, nurtured by its resilient core values.’ —Graça Machel, widow of former South African president Nelson Mandela

‘Sisonke Msimang’s Always Another Country is my favourite kind of memoir, so lyrical and dreamlike that it reads like a novel. It’s an artful meditation on exile and return, womanhood and motherhood unfolding against the backdrop of post-apartheid South African politics.’ –Taiye Selasi, The Guardian, Best Books of 2017

‘Sisonke Msimang had to grow up fast. In Always Another Country, one of South Africa’s emerging social critics tells the story of her youth, bouncing between continents and cultures, all the while being 'bottle-fed the dream' of a free South Africa by her mother and her exiled African National Congress father. Msimang points unflinchingly to her country’s open wounds. She is as critical of the ANC leadership as she is of oblivious white compatriots. Her memoir is a unique perspective on South Africa’s recent history that fundamentally tells the struggle of a deeply torn woman to comprehend a deeply torn country.’ –Financial Times

‘Always Another Country, a graceful memoir by Sisonke Msimang, is a welcome novelty. Msimang, a South African writer and political analyst, charts an alternate course to the now familiar conclusion that home is not always a place on a map.’ –New York Times

‘Before personal and political events finally allowed her to go 'home' to South Africa, Msimang spent her first 20-plus years in peripatetic exile. Hauntingly raw (her sexual assault at age seven) and unblinkingly honest (her lingering hatred of a school bully), Msimang’s memoir and first book recounts the intimate, inspiring, tumultuous journey of a woman 'piecing herself back together'.’ –Terry Hong, Booklist

About the author

Sisonke Msimang

Sisonke Msimang is one of the most exciting contemporary female black voices in literature. Now based in Perth, Australia, she is Programme Director for the Centre for Stories, a social enterprise organisation, from where she travels regularly to the US, South Africa and further afield. She regularly contributes to publications like The Guardian, the Huffington Post and The New York Times. She has over 20,000 followers on Twitter @Sisonkemsimang. Her TED Talk, ‘If a story moves you, act on it’, has been viewed over 1 million times. Photo: © Nick White

Book Club Questions

Book Club Questions

  1. Msimang experienced racism in both Africa and in the US/ Canada: Were these forms of racism different? How so, why not?
  2. Have you had close encounters with similar kinds of racism? If there was anyone else around, how did they react?
  3. In what way does the theft of the bicycle change her outlook on human relationships, and on her own situation?
  4. How would you describe the relationship between Sisonke and her parents, and how does this change over the course of her story? In what way does her outlook on the world differ from that of her parents?
  5. How do the relationships between Sisonke and her sisters change over the course of the book?
  6. Why does it take Sisonke so long to make up her mind about getting into a relationship with her husband, Paul? What factors are stopping her, what is driving her on?
  7. Regarding her love affair in the US with Jasonwhat is it she sees in him and why does she decide to leave him in the end?
  8. What makes her return to South Africa?
  9. What makes her leave South Africa to go to Australia?
  10. How would you characterize Sisonke? What kind of person is she?
  11. What do you think about how she deals with the sexual harassment that she experienced as a child? Why does she react in the way she does? Do you think this has an affect on the personality of the adult Sisonke?
  12. Do you think sexism is as much/more of an issue for her as racism is? Why/why not?
  13. What do you think about the situation between Sisonke, the babysitter, and the babysitter’s sister? What do you think of the way Sisonke deals with this? What do you think Sisonke feels about the way she deals with this?
  14. What do you think about the conflict she has at work and the way she deals with it?
  15. Are you interested in reading more of Sisonke’s thoughts, or hearing her speak? Were you struck by any specific ideas she brought up?