PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY.
CAREER: Journalist and author. Contributor to numerous magazines and newspapers.
Apartheid in My Rucksack, J. Ball Publishers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1990.
Mongo: Adventures in Trash, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist and author Ted Botha has traveled extensively since his youth, living in Japan, South Africa, New York City, and Washington, D.C., with his South African diplomat parents. His personal experiences and inquisitive nature as a journalist led to him to publish articles for an array of international magazines and newspapers, including Men's Fitness, Playboy, Esquire, Discovery, and the New York Times.
In 1990, Botha wrote and published his first book, Apartheid in My Rucksack. This memoir chronicles the eight months Botha spent traveling throughout Africa, to England and eventually the United States, in 1986. As a white South African, he left that country to escape the rioting and political unrest as a result of apartheid. As he traveled throughout the continent, he encountered South African exiles, hostile immigration agents, and Americans accused of being South African spies. In spite of his effort to get away from the problems that plagued South Africa at the time, he found himself confronting the issue of apartheid on each leg of his trip. Those experiences transformed the way he viewed his home country and the countries he traveled to during this journey. Apartheid in My Rucksack looks back on Botha's journey with vivid details of his trip and the revelations he made along the way.
Botha's next book, Mongo: Adventures in Trash, was published in 2004. The idea for the book came to Botha when he moved to Manhattan from South Africa, and furnished his apartment with furniture and accessories neighbors had left out in the garbage. He soon realized that he was not alone in his efforts to reuse other people's castoff items. In fact, in New York slang, "mongo" is defined as any discarded object that is retrieved. Botha's book chronicles a range of mongo collectors, detailing what items they collect and what drives them to collect mongo. It is divided into chapters dedicated to different types of collectors, including pack rats, who are addicted to collecting; anarchists, who look for food; archaeologists, who dig for antique treasures; and canners, who recycle aluminum cans as a way to make a living. Botha conducted extensive interviews and research for the book, spending months meeting and traveling with mongo collectors.
On the whole, book reviewers praised and recommended Mongo. Some critics cited Botha's style of journalism as one reason the book succeeds. "His sensitive and nonjudgmental study portrays a previously overlooked but resilient and passionate population as one that's worthy of attention and respect," wrote one Publishers Weekly contributor. Others recognized Botha's ability to let his interview subjects speak for themselves, and therefore tell their stories more clearly. "He lets them do the talking, which is one of Mongo's many pleasures," commented Jon Elliston in a review for the Independent Weekly.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Botha, Ted, Apartheid in My Rucksack, J. Ball Publishers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1990.
Chicago Tribune, August 4, 2004, Helen Urbinas, review of Mongo: Adventures in Trash, p. 2.
Entertainment Weekly, June 25, 2004, Daniel Fierman, review of Mongo, p. 172.
Independent Weekly, July 28, 2004, Jon Elliston, review of Mongo.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of Mongo, p. 305.
Library Bookwatch, October 2004, review of Mongo.
New York Observer, July 12, 2004, Laura C. Moser, "Local Dumster—Diving Lore: Wealth and Waste Are Wed."
New York Times Book Review, June 20, 2004, Jane and Michael Stern, review of Mongo, p. 6.
Psychology Today, May—June 2004, review of Mongo, p. 82.
Publishers Weekly, January 26, 2004, "One Man's Trash . . . ," p. 186; May 3, 2004, review of Mongo, p. 180.
Bloomsbury USA Web site,http://www.bloomsbury.com/ (December 13, 2004), "Ted Botha."
Ted Botha Home Page,http://www.tedbotha.com (December 13, 2004), "Ted Botha."*