I've recently finished reading Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew, and most of it has left a delicious taste.

The one piece that I'm left wondering about is a secondary character, Piet Witbooi. He's a San man, a police officer, and is described as a superb sleuth. But, in a few scenes where he appears, he is described using animal terms: he jumps like a springbok, or his gaze is quick like a dragonfly.

It bears noting that a few other characters are described similarly, but only once each in the whole book.

So, has the author ever been questioned about the extent to which the depiction of Piet Witbooi in Recipes for Love and Murder might be racially stereotyped?


2 Answers 2


User Obie2.0 addresses your literal question as to whether the author has been questioned on the topic and I don't have anything to add on that. I looked to see what I could find about the author generally, to see if there were clues there.

What I found was that there is little detailed biographical information about Sally Andrews online, at least in English, but that in interviews she often makes reference to her past as an activist, both on environmental topics and against South Africa's apartheid regime. The most detailed such reference I found was an interview on the Mysteryreadersinc Blog, where Andrews says:

I was an activist in the height of the anti-apartheid struggle. Comrades and friends were killed, tortured and arrested daily. There were taps on our phones and spies in our organisations. I was threatened and angry and fighting. We were at war, and I had no patience for ‘the enemy’: racism, sexism, apartheid, capitalism, and anyone who was tainted by them. There was little softness in my fists, or in my heart.

At a book launch event she also said:

To be honest, when I examine my motives for this book, I do have some intentions of how I hope to affect readers. I am not sure if I would define them as political, emotional of spiritual intentions, but they are there between the lines. I feel that if intentions are overstated then they can be less effective. I’d rather they are evoked from the reader, as Peter van Straaten said opening an art exhibition recently: it’s not for the artist to tell the viewer what to think or feel about the art, the viewer, or in this case the reader, must discover for themselves what the writing means to them.

My take from these statements is that it is improbably that Andrew intentionally engaged in racial stereotyping, but that that is a reading that is available to people.

EDIT: Note that this section has been added after the answer was accepted.

There has been some discussion in comments, some now removed, as to whether Andrew's claim to activism are credible. I am aware of no specific grounds to suspect her of embellishment and am not sure where the impetus for such distrust arises. However, it gave me the push to look further to see if I could find anything corroborative.

Web search result are dominated by references to her written output, which includes a publication called 'The Fire Dogs of Climate Change' which is a call to action and includes some personal anecdote. Again details are lacking on activism against apartheid, but Andrews gives her parents names, Paul and Bosky Andrew. Searching on those names leads to the identification of her father as an architect and activist. His obituary in The South African Sunday Times says:

Typically, he was interested in practical solutions based on extensive research and solid technical arguments that could be implemented and change people's lives.

Apart from achieving results, this was in large part why, although his phones were constantly tapped, he managed to avoid being arrested.

He certainly took chances, however. He and his wife, Bosky, who lay down in front of the bulldozers at Crossroads while he concentrated on more technical solutions, hid members of the ANC underground who they'd got to know in Lusaka, at their home in Constantia.

While this does not constitute proof of Andrew's own activism, it does place her in a family setting where activism was a feature and makes it less likely that she makes up her activist history from whole cloth.

  • I saw those articles but I was hesitant to include them as evidence in my answer, because, well, people can always be dishonest, and people can be influenced by racial stereotypes unintentionally.
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 11, 2022 at 23:53
  • @Obie2.0 of course, hence my specifically registering intentionality.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 12, 2022 at 16:44
  • 2
    @fundagain according to her Twitter bio she was born on October 14, 1967. So she’s 55 which seems perfectly possible from her pictures and mid twenties when apartheid ended. Seems plausible to me, but I respect you may be better placed to comment.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 20, 2022 at 21:55
  • 1
    @fundagain Why are you so sure she can’t be what she says? She has a public Twitter, you could just ask her. No guarantee of an answer of course. I just don’t get what your issue is. And ‘comrades’ can included anyone in the struggle, not just personal friends.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 21, 2022 at 8:29
  • 1
    @Fundagain You may, or may not, find her father's obituary interesting. timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/opinion-and-analysis/…
    – Spagirl
    Nov 21, 2022 at 11:19

As of yet, probably not

There are very few pages that mention "Piet Witbooi," "Constable Piet" (note that there appear to be two Piets who work for the police department), "Constable Witbooi", "Konstabel Piet," or "Konstabel Witbooi" in conjunction with the name "Sally Andrew," and one might suppose that almost any written discussion of the portrayal of Witbooi in conjunction with Andrew (particularly asking her directly) would fit one of these patterns. A perusal of these pages turns up little commentary on Witbooi, except to describe his character.

Of course, this does not account for misspellings, people who might tangentially mention Andrews, Witbooi, or both, any untranscribed or even unrecorded audio or video interviews in English, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, or what-have-you, or questions that people may have asked Andrew at cocktail mixers.

However, even aside from those limitations, that does not mean that there are no racial stereotypes in the depiction of Witbooi. Disproportionately describing Black South African characters with analogies to native fauna certainly might give one reason for suspicion. But with regard to the question statement, whether the author has been questioned about it, the answer appears to be no, as of the date of publication of this answer.

  • Thanks! Just one detail: I didn't notice a character known as "Constable Piet" that would have been distinct from Piet Witbooi. It might be my misunderstanding, or it might be a mistake in translation (I read the French version, that to the best of my knowledge doesn't use the word "Constable"). Nov 11, 2022 at 23:26
  • By the way, I've a bit torn between accepting your answer or Spagirl's, explicitly built on yours. Since their answer has more explicit facts, I'm accepting it. Nov 11, 2022 at 23:27
  • @Jean-DavidLanz - No problem.
    – Obie 2.0
    Nov 12, 2022 at 0:00
  • @Jean-DavidLanz of course you might want to hold off on accepting either for now, someone may yet come up with something more concrete.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 12, 2022 at 16:46

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