Anna's Reviews > Afrika

Afrika by Colleen Craig
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Jul 11, 09

bookshelves: fiction, young-adult, africa, teaching-tolerance, read-in-2009, favorites
Read in July, 2009

I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's amazing. It made me cry. It made me think. It made me feel more than any book has in a long time.

I read this for a class I am taking and I am just completely floored by how great this book is. The protagonist, Kim, is a 13-year-old Canadian girl who travels to South Africa with her South African mother and meets her extended family for the first time. Kim's mom is white (and she thinks she, therefore, is too) and she's not really sure what to expect in South Africa since her mom hardly ever talks about the country. What's interesting is why her mother decides to go there. Her mom is a journalist and she's going there to cover the Truth and Reconcilation hearings that were held post-apartheid. I honestly had no idea what they were (and even that they happened) until this book. Basically Nelson Mandela, when he became president, made the decision to seek the truth about the injustices that happened under apartheid but the idea was not to prosecute people. Actually, you couldn't prosecute people who committed crimes or harmed others under apartheid. But the idea behind these hearings is that the truth would come out and people would be able to forgive each other. A beautiful idea in theory but I still can't believe this actually happened. And you can imagine how totally controversial these hearings could be.

Anyway, Kim and her mom Riana arrive in South Africa and Kim's whole world is turned upside down. She starts looking for her father. She makes friends with a black South African boy named Themba, who makes her see the world differently. She starts to realize why her mom fled South Africa when she was pregnant. She gets to meet her extended family and learns who they are now, who they were under apartheid, and gets to see firsthand just how much (or how little) had changed.

The book is beautiful. It's a wonderful way for younger readers to learn about the history of South Africa and some of the more modern problems in the country. The book makes you really undertanding why "undoing" apartheid in reality will take several generations. I kept comparing this to Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country, which I also LOVED, and this is probably the YA equivalent. I loved that the characters were not black-and-white. The "good" characters had flaws and the "bad" characters weren't really "bad." You (through Kim's eyes) come to understand why they are the way they are and see the world from their eyes. It's a really well done novel. I want to have at least some of my students read it next year.
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Reading Progress

07/10/2009 page 20
8.58%
07/11/2009 page 96
41.2% "This is really good. I don't understand the low rating."

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