In a committed anti-apartheid publisher like Ravan Press in the 1970s and 1980s, the selection of authors was usually based on political or ideological grounds as well as the quality of their writing. As a result, Ravan was harassed and subjected to censorship. But to what extent did Ravan’s social position and capital inform the author–publisher relationship? One relatively well-known case is that of Miriam Tlali, described as ‘the first black woman to publish a novel in South Africa’. Tlali’s account of her relationship with Ravan has been described in very negative terms. However, her account changed over time and is not supported by other evidence. Based on archival sources and interviews, this article will explore the relationship between Tlali and Ravan Press, raising questions of the politics and power dynamics of literary publishing in the apartheid period. The article also raises questions about the methods used to write literary history.