Jonny Steinberg is a South African writer and scholar. He is the author of several books about everyday life in the wake of South Africa’s transition to democracy. Two of them, Midlands (2002), about the murder of a white South African farmer, and The Number (2004), a biography of a prison gangster, won South Africa’s premier non-fiction award, the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. In 2013, he was among the inaugural winners of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes, awarded by Yale University. Steinberg’s books also include Three-Letter Plague (Sizwe’s Test in the United States), which chronicles a young man’s journey through South Africa’s AIDS pandemic. It was a Washington Post Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize, among others. Steinberg is also the author of Thin Blue (2008), an exploration of the unwritten rules of engagement between South African civilians and police, and Little Liberia: An African Odyssey in New York (2011), about the Liberian civil war and its aftermath in an exile community in New York and described as an "extraordinary, stylistically varied mix of reportage, history and biography". Steinberg's 2015 book, A Man of Good Hope, was described as "superb" by Observer reviewer Ian Birrell, who wrote: "On the surface, it is simply the biography of a lonely young migrant who dreams of a decent life, hardening his shell and hustling to survive in hostile human environments. Yet it is really an epic African saga that chronicles some fundamental modern issues such as crime, human trafficking, migration, poverty and xenophobia, while giving glimpses into the Somali clan system, repression in Ethiopia and lethal racism in townships."
Steinberg was born and raised in South Africa. He was educated at Wits University in Johannesburg, and at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and earned a doctorate in political theory. He has worked as a journalist at a South African national daily newspaper, written scripts for television drama, and has been a consultant to the South African government on criminal justice policy. He lectures in African Studies at the University of Oxford.
Awards and honours
- Midlands. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2002. xii, 259 pages. ISBN 1-86842-124-4
- The Number: One Man's Search for Identity in the Cape Underworld and Prison Gangs. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2004. 427 pages. ISBN 1-86842-205-4
- Notes from a Fractured Country. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2007
- Sizwe's Test. New York: Simon and Schuster, February 2008. Hardcover, 368 pages. ISBN 1-4165-5269-3; ISBN 978-1-4165-5269-7
- Thin Blue: The Unwritten Rules of Policing South Africa. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, August 2008.
- Three-Letter Plague. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers , March 2008; Vintage Random House , December 2008
- Little Liberia: An African Odyssey in New York. London: Jonathan Cape Random House, January 2011; Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, March 2011
- A Man of Good Hope. London: Jonathan Cape, 2015; ISBN 978-0224094122. New York: Knopf, 2015; ISBN 978-0385352727
- Matthew Burbridge, "Anatomy of a murder", Mail & Guardian, 4 October 2002.
- Margaret Busby, "Little Liberia: An African Odyssey in New York City by Jonny Steinberg – review", The Guardian, 12 March 2011.
- Ian Birrell, "A Man of Good Hope review – a refugee’s tale", The Observer, 4 January 2015.
- Author page, Simon & Schuster.
- Dorie Baker (March 4, 2013). "Yale awards $1.35 million to nine writers". YaleNews. Retrieved March 5, 2013.