Tomorrow is South Africa Youth Day, celebrating the 1976 youth protest in Soweto. Khosi’s mother and father were among the many who fought for freedom from apartheid, the South African government’s brutal racial discrimination policy.
Although apartheid has crumbled, Khosi and Zi are growing up in an era of changes, as traditional beliefs clash with Christianity, and new menaces stalk the villages and cities of Africa. “The disease of these times” Khosi calls it – HIV and AIDS leaves many children orphaned.
I visited with author J.L. Powers at TLA, and she told me of life in today’s South African townships, the funeral bells, the push for education. Reading this strong book, we can believe that Khosi will stay in school and find a way to balance her beliefs, avoid threats to her health, and see a bright future.
Recommendation: Khosi wants to do well in school, keep her family safe, escape AIDS, “the disease of these times” in South Africa. Life can be so confusing at 14, as she prays to the great God-in-the-sky at the church and also honors her ancestors with traditional ceremonies, uses herbal cures from the sangoma as well as modern medicines from the clinic. Born on the day that her grandfather died, Khosi often has vivid dreams – are they merely warnings from her ancestor or dire predictions of the future?
She and her little sister live with their grandmother in Imbali township, while her mother teaches in another city, coming home on the weekends; their father lives so far away that they see him only on holidays. Khosi wishes that Mama and Baba were married, but during the struggle for Liberation who could afford the lobolo, the bride price?
A widowed neighbor accuses Mama of stealing her late husband’s money, a drunken man near Gogo’s house follows Khosi and Zi home from school every day, and the witch woman calls out that she will take Khosi’s spirit! How Khosi wishes she could just ignore these things and plan her future as someone who heals or dream about her crush on Little Man at her school …
When Mama comes home, sick and skinny and weary, Khosi fears that the neighbor and the witch have cursed her family. What can she do?
Author J.L. Powers’ time in South Africa has given her great insight into the lives of its girls and women, ever-shadowed by HIV, neighborhood violence, and the struggle to rise above poverty, as she brings us a powerful story that still holds hope for This Thing Called the Future. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.