Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela Dies--Books About South Africa

Yesterday, Nelson Mandela died. Mandela was a freedom fighter who served 27 years in jail. When he got out, he was instrumental in ending the brutal apartheid system and became the country's first democratically elected president. Today, we're looking at books that take place in South Africa.


Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela. The best place to learn about Mandela's life, what he did, and why, is to start with his story in his own words.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Patton. In the 1940s, Stephen Kumalo (a Zulu priest) leaves his village to travel to Johannesburg to find his family and to bring them back together.

Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography--The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane. Mathabane grew up in a shanty town outside of Johannesburg-- a place of extreme poverty, frequent police raids, and gang wars. He was able to get out, but here describes the extreme horror and anger of the apartheid system.


Spud by John van de Ruit. Set against the days following Mandela's release and the end of Apartheid, Spud's days at boarding school are filled with pranks and craziness, and his days at home during breaks are filled with the unknown of a changing country. Follow it with Spud-The Madness Continues.

Now Is the Time for Running by Michael Williams. When Deo is playing soccer, the soldiers come and massacre his village-- only Deo and his brother Innocent escape. Now they're on the run, trying to make their way from Zimbabwe to South Africa. The journey is dangerous, as is the destination, but once they get there, soccer may once again save them.

This Thing Called the Future y J.L. Powers. In the shanty town of Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, Khosi lives with her grandmother and her brother and goes to school. Her mother's dying of some disease. Khosi wants to go for a doctor, but she has to stay in school.


Many Stones by Carolyn Coman. Berry's still made at her father for divorcing her mother. She's left reeling after her sister is murdered in South Africa. Now she has to go with her father to South Africa for the memorial service. Set against the back drop of South Africa's "truth and reconciliation" healing process, Berry and her father have to find a way to mend their relationship.

Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story by Beverly Naidoo. When their baby sister falls sick, Naledi and Tiro set out to Johannesburg-- hundred of miles away, but where their mother is working. When they get there, they see the horror and truth about their country. (Note-- this isn't historical fiction-- it was contemporary when it was written and apartheid was still in full effect.)

The Year the Gypsies Came by Linzi Glass. Set in the suburbs of Johannesburg in 1966, Emily's family frequently has long-term houseguests, so her parents can play nice and ignore the problems in their marriage. One summer, an Australian family stays, and they have their own issues. Glass grew up in South Africa during Apartheid and the small details of privileged white children really bring the time and place alive.

What are your Mandela or South Africa must-reads?

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