Publication: 2020

Author: Rešoketšwe Manenzhe

In 1927, South Africa passes the Immorality Act, prohibiting sexual intercourse between “Europeans” (white people) and “natives” (Black people). Those who break the draconian new law face imprisonment—for men of up to five years; for women, four years.

Abram and his wife Alisa have their share of marital problems, but they also have a comfortable life in South Africa with their two young girls. But then the Act is passed. Alisa is black, and their two children are now evidence of their involvement in a union that has been criminalized by the state.

At first, Alisa and Abram question how they’ll be affected by the Act, but then officials start asking questions at the girls’ school, and their estate is catalogued for potential disbursement. Abram is at a loss as to how to protect his young family from the grinding machinery of the law, whose worst discriminations have until now been kept at bay by the family’s economic privilege. And with this, his hesitation, the couple’s bond is tattered.

Alisa, who is Jamaican and the descendant of slaves, was adopted by a wealthy white British couple, who raised her as their child. But as she grew older and realized that the prejudices of British society made no allowance for her, she journeyed to South Africa where she met Abram. In the aftermath of the Immorality Act, she comes to a heartbreaking conclusion based on her past and collective history – and she commits her own devastating act, one that will reverberate through their entire family’s lives.

Intertwining her storytelling with ritual, myth, and the heart-wrenching question of who stays and who leaves, Scatterlings marks the debut of a gifted storyteller who has become a sensation in her native South Africa—and promises to take the Western literary world by storm as well.

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Original Language

ENGLISH (SA) | Jacana Media
ENGLISH (WEL excl. SA) | HarperVia

Translation Rights

CHINESE (Complex) | Infortress Publishing
CROATIAN | Iris Illyrica
CZECH | Odeon/Euromedia
DUTCH | Orlando
GERMAN | Penguin Verlag
ITALIAN | Solferino
PORTUGUESE (Brazil) | Record


Winner of the 2020 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award

Winner of the 2021 HSS Award for Fiction by a Single Author

Winner of the 2021 University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English

Winner of the 2021 South African Literary Awards, for Fiction in English in the category of "First Time Published Author"

Shortlisted to the 2021 Sunday Times CNA Literary Awards


A Best Book of 2022 in The New Yorker

A BEST NEW BOOK from *Vanity Fair *The New York Times *The Washington Post *Los Angeles Times

"Exquisitely intimate and globally ambitious. ... Manenzhe’s words are full of a wild, roaming intelligence that drifts into both intense philosophical exploration and acknowledgments of the unknowable. Yet the book is a swift, brutal read, full of suspense about the big and small questions of living, struggling with its characters’ beliefs about belonging and rootlessness." The New York Times

"Manenzhe debuts with a poetic and wrenching story of one family’s upheaval. ... The novel feels both grounded and timeless, as Manenzhe fuses this tragedy of South Africa’s segregationist policies with a long tradition of folklore. There’s great heft to this universal story." Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Elegant, mythical, heart-wrenching, and beautiful, Scatterlings conveys the profound impact of racism on one South African family." Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, award-winning author of The Revisioners

"Set in South Africa in 1927, this powerful novel chronicles the unravelling of a biracial family in the wake of the Immorality Act, which outlawed sexual relations between white and Black people. . . . Manenzhe situates this tragic tale within the broader context of the displacement and abuse of Africans caused by colonialism and the slave trade, but her achievement is to humanize the victims of that legacy, in a story that feels like an act of restoration." The New Yorker

"With a raconteur’s rhythm, Manenzhe, a South African villager and storyteller, brings to life a painful piece of history, enriched with myths and lore." Washington Post

"In South Africa, tragedy strikes a young family - the mother Black, the father white - in this family history told on an epic scale."  Vanity Fair

"Manenzhe’s poetic narrative, sometimes dreamy, piercing, and threaded with heartache and suffering as well as ancestral myth and symbolism. An elegiac view of colonial and racial injustice." Kirkus Reviews

"Scatterlings is a brilliant piece of writing, telling a story seldom told in South Africa. It is a compelling, original novel, ambitious in its form, with a pioneering depth of research." Jennifer Malec, editor of The Johannesburg Review of Books and judge of the 2020 Dinaane Debut Fiction Award

"Rešoketšwe Manenzhe’s disquieting debut novel describes imperfect people caught in the indifferent thrust of history." Emma Alpern, Vulture

"This is a poetic and lyrical novel that shows the toll racist policy takes on families. The writing can be as dreamy as it can be scathing, and South African lore is worked in beautifully." Bookriot

"Scatterlings will influence research in the intersection between individual and communal notions of history, being and time." Judges of the 2021 HSS Awards

"Rešoketšwe Manenzhe’s writing is exquisite. In Scatterlings, she breathtakingly weaves myth and impossible love with South African politics and history. This is a book to be read and reread." Ayesha Harruna Attah, author of The Hundred Wells of Salaga and Zainab Takes New York

"Scatterlings leans into a sad time, and what it finds there does much to cut a swathe through a genre—South African historical fiction—that overflows with men’s stories. The novel brings texture to a story that is more faded and more illegible than other moments in our shared history. It may be too sad for the telling, but the attempt is a worthy one." Wamuwi Mbao, The Johannesburg Review of Books

"What Scatterlings illustrates is that it is possible to write what you know without limiting yourself to your own actual, physical, lived experience." The Reading List