Read of the Week

Becoming Iman

Iman Rappetti

Pan Macmillan

Review: Lindiwe Mlandu

Iman Rappetti is one of the most recognisable faces in South Africa.

She was a television news anchor for over a decade.

In Becoming Iman, the award-winning journalist has written a book about her life.

She was born Vanessa Lena Rappetti in Phoenix, Durban. Her father was Indian, her mother coloured. Her father’s family did not accept their coloured daughter-in-law. She delves into colourism, domestic violence, hair politics, and growing up in apartheid South Africa.

She was an inquisitive child, but quickly learned that the elders did not appreciate that. She had to bite her tongue to avoid getting into trouble.

Raised in a Christian family, she became fascinated by religion and started reading intensively on it.

Islam made most sense to her so she converted and became Iman. She embraced her new reality with gusto.

She got married and decided to wear her faith on the outside. She gave away her clothes and started wearing a burqa.

Her family refused to accept this decision. They insisted on calling her Vanessa, but she did not waver and was militant in her beliefs. She even cut her hair because she had unorthodox views on beauty and worship.

Iman and her new husband decided to move to Iran to pursue their religious studies. She writes about their time in the holy city of Qom. She fell in love with Iranian food, immersed herself in her religion and they would debate matters of faith for hours on end.

She also started working at the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Authority. She heard terrible stories of women being ill-treated; things she had never associated with a country that prides itself on morality.

She started to question the world around her. There were things she could not reconcile with, for example, she was told she could not lead because she was a woman.

Despite having the same qualifications as men, by virtue of being a woman, she could not apply for certain positions.

As a family, they returned to South Africa and moved to Johannesburg. Iman tells her story honestly with a touch of humour. She writes about two Muslim women in their burqas walking into an adult shop looking for toys to spice up their sex life.

Years later, Iman turns her back on religion. She divorces her husband and focuses on being the best mother she can be to her children. She writes about the guilt of being a working mom.

Becoming Iman is funny, emotional and soulful. She uses flowery Ianguage to tell her story. She’s no longer religious but understands those who are. She still enjoys worship songs; and loves swimming and her signature red lipstick.