This is a fantastic book, and should be much better-known than it is. Set in a township near Pretoria in the tumultuous 1980s, it tells the story of Tihelo, a young teenage girl living with her mum and older sister. At first she’s no fan of the protests and disruption, only wanting to go to school so she can become a journalist and escape the township. However, the brutality of the apartheid regime is inescapable, and her need to defend and get justice for her loved ones pushes her into the resistance. It’s a powerful story which goes to some dark places, and I think it gives a good insight into what South Africa was like at the time (at least, speaking as someone whose own knowledge of that time is cobbled together from year 11 Geography classes, conversations with my partner’s South African family, and what I learned from the Hector Pieterson museum in Soweto). It’s notable as a South African novel actually written by a Black person, which is bizarrely difficult to find considering the demographics of the country. And I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get into reading novels about South Africa, as indeed it’s been (by far) the most engaging of all the ones I’ve read. Enjoyable, significant, and deserves to not be so obscure.
Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.