Jenny Robson was born and raised in Cape Town in apartheid South Africa. After studying to be a primary school teacher in Mowbray and obtaining a bachelor’s in philosophy from the University of South Africa, she worked as a teacher in Simonstown before moving to Botswana, where she still teaches music today.
She began to write when she was 38, following a difficult period in her life. To date she has published more than thirty books for children and young adults, including stories for children with English as a foreign language, one novel for adults, as well as numerous short stories. »My novels are set in Africa. The characters and situations are all deeply African. Africa is my home and my motherland and I believe my first loyalty belongs here«, Robson has said about her literary work. Born into a white, conservative Protestant family where other beliefs and religions were considered evil, tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful cohabitation became important to her. Her works explore the dreams, fears, hopes and problems of South African adolescents, which they share with young people beyond the African continent. At the same time, she touches on topics that are unmistakably »African«, such as street gangs in townships, exclusion and racism. In her youth novel »Because Pula Means Rain« (2000), Emmanuel grapples with discrimination within his community, which excludes him out of fear of becoming like him: a »white« black man, an albino. In her penetrating and exciting novel »Praise Song« (2005), Robson elegantly tells the story of young Gaone, who must face the ever-present threat of AIDS. When her teacher is found dead on World AIDS day and her younger sister is in danger of getting involved with the local »Don Juan«, Gaone takes the initiative. »Balaclava Boy« (2009), the German translation of which was nominated for the German Children’s Literature Award in 2013, makes the case for diversity and acceptance. Normally Dumisani and Doogal always have a snappy comment ready, but when Tommy, a new boy, joins their class, they are lost for words for the first time. Tommy wears a balaclava that covers his face at all times, even during sports. Doogal and Dumisani do everything they can to find out his secret.
Jenny Robson has received numerous prestigious awards for her children’s and young adult novels, including the Children’s and Young People’s Literature in the Service of Tolerance Award. She is the first author to ever win four consecutive prizes in the Sanlam Youth Novel Competition (1994 ff.), which she won again in 2005 for »Praise Song«. Jenny Robson lives in Maun in Botswana.