No one has sold as many copies of ‘This is How it is’ as Lerato Annie Lehlabathe, one of our Life Righting Collective members and a contributor to both the anthology and the LRC website. As of 6 August, Lerato has sold 46 copies! Since she brought us all to tears at our launch at The Book Lounge with her poem, ‘Mama, My Hero’, she has marketed and distributed the anthology with extraordinary energy and passion. Within days of the launch (31 May), she ordered 22 books for one of her past employers, Lauren, who was en route to the United States. Lauren had taken a short video of Lerato’s reading, and orders for the book poured in. Here’s Lerato signing Lauren’s orders!
Next came Khayelitsha – Lerato’s home turf – where interest was growing; as people watched the video on her mobile phone, more books were ordered. I delivered two heavy bags of anthologies to our meeting point over lunchtime; watching this slender elegant figure heaving two bulging bags of anthologies from the shopping centre in Makasa towards her home, I marvelled at her support and enthusiasm for the project. Keeping me informed of the orders and her plans to take copies to Lesotho during the school break, there was only one less than positive Whatsapp message – three photos arrived of flooding around her home, with the message ‘The rain has filled our place with water’.
But undeterred, Lerato was back on track, planning the launch in Khayelitsha, which will take place in early September. A message on 30 June followed:
People love my poem – they want to organise a book launch and there are more orders, this time from the Nursery School where I worked for three months.
Later I was informed that they too would like to organise a launch soon. On 1 July, she was selling copies at her church and took a photo [see left] with the caring woman who took her in after the escape she describes in her poem.
On the 9th of July, Lerato was headed for Lesotho to see her mother and her children, taking with her 10 books.
First stop was National University of Lesotho, where she sold books, took photographs of herself in significant spots, with friends, and celebrated success with her friend Majane and Wendy Radebe, now Deputy Principal at the Millennium High School. [see photos below] A friend from Botswana also asked for a copy to be sent. Taking our anthology across borders, this Lerato! She notes in her Whatsapp “the book is trending’.
Two more nostalgic visits followed – one to St Stephens, her high school in Mohale’s Hoek in Lesotho, where she tried to meet the deputy principal, Mr Michael Fulbright “to thank him for the scholarship she was given”. He was away but she organised a donation book and inscribed it. Being the digital familiar that she is, she sent me a short video of the inscription:
“For My School.
I would like to thank my teachers for the precious gift of education. My English teachers have outdone themselves in equipping me with basic skills in writing and grammar … My journey hasn’t been an easy one in Life, but I have conquered because of the education that has been instilled in me by you, my teachers. Even though my life was full of misery but now I’m starting to smile, all is well now. … I have completed a course of writing and have now started to fulfill my dream and write my stories.”
The other visit was to “a very special place – the Nts’ekhe Government hospital in the mental institution section where I was admitted in 2010, it was a touching moment”. She went with her mother and her siblings’ children.
Most importantly, in this time away, Lerato says “I had the best time and most importantly to open up at last with my mom and tell her the story of her life. Though she cried, we comforted each other and she’s proud of the woman I have become.”
All in all, Lerato is a remarkable woman, and has so far sold over 30 books and has two launches planned – well and truly our best seller!