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Book Discussions > Coconut - Book Discussion

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message 1: by ConnorD (new)

ConnorD | 181 comments Discussion thread for Coconut


message 2: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Interesting that both of May books deal with similar themes - the main characters are dealing with issues of racial identity and the complexities of it within their own group and how "the others" influence this issue.

Actually I have read both of the books - so this will give me an opportunity to catch up and finish the other BOMs that I was not able to get to last month.


message 3: by Beverly (new)

Beverly I am looking forward to this discussion especially since there are South Africans in the group to comment.

I have read Coconut and other similar books based in SA over the past years - most were BOM with African American bookclubs.
A common comment around these books - is okay - this is nothing new we (being AA) wrote/discussed/lived through several similar coming-of-age tales and so the books have a 1960s/1970s US feel to us. And several will say - been there, done that and have read enough of these types of stories.

So I am curious how others in the group will feel about this book.


message 4: by Dominique (new)

Dominique | 26 comments I won't be part of the discussion :(
I ordered a copy that will arrive in three weeks time if I am lucky. hgggrrrr


message 5: by Julia (new)

Julia (juliatruter) | 22 comments oohh, this is on my to read list. better get it now. would love to participate in the discussions.


message 6: by ConnorD (new)

ConnorD | 181 comments This book was probably the first that dealt with post apartheid South Africa (from youth perspective) and the impact culturally on young people who were entering previously white schools, trying to define what it means to be African in a new South Africa


message 7: by Zoli (new)

Zoli | 17 comments ConnorD wrote: "This book was probably the first that dealt with post apartheid South Africa (from youth perspective) and the impact culturally on young people who were entering previously white schools, trying to..."

Connor I am re-reading this book now. Agree that it does capture some of the cultural dynamic of youth in post apartheid South Africa - dealing with integration


message 8: by Rowena (new)

Rowena | 32 comments I just picked up my copy from the library. Will be reading it soon


message 9: by ConnorD (new)

ConnorD | 181 comments Have been quite busy with elections process in South Africa, now will have more time to focus on Afro Book Club again.

I am browsing through the book again this week


message 10: by Adira (new)

Adira (introvertinterrupted) | 4 comments I'm so excited both my nominations were chosen. I've already read The blacker Te Berry, but have yet to read this particular book. However, I've had it on my shelves for a year now.


message 11: by Malebo (new)

Malebo Sephodi (malebosephodi) | 6 comments As a young South Afrikan (not young enough to be called a born free and not old enough to have experienced apartheid). I am an ex-coconut and have been on a journey for the last couple of years. I don't think this story is overdone. I truly believe we need more of them to address issues which are still swept under the carpet today. I feel a new narrative has to be developed though. I didn't personally relate to any of the characters but it felt real to me. It's what my friends went through and their current lives have been shaped by such contexts. I definitely think it opens up a discussion for a development in the current discourse that exists around the notion of "coconutism".

It took a while for me to adapt to the story line and writing style and once I got that, it became quite refreshing to read.


message 12: by Malebo (new)

Malebo Sephodi (malebosephodi) | 6 comments I mean experienced apartheid first hand. I was shielded from it and only discovered the true beast in my twenties. Now that I think of it, I do somewhat relate to Tshepo although not entirely...


message 13: by ConnorD (new)

ConnorD | 181 comments Malebo wrote: "I mean experienced apartheid first hand. I was shielded from it and only discovered the true beast in my twenties. Now that I think of it, I do somewhat relate to Tshepo although not entirely..."

I can totally relate to this too Malebo - a discussion certainly needed about what it means to be black or African in post apartheid South Africa. I admire your journey and thanks so much for sharing this with us

what role do you think parents play in creating "coconutism" - do you think its the desire to identify less with things indigenous/African?

Considered this much during the election process - who is likely to vote DA for example?


message 14: by Malebo (new)

Malebo Sephodi (malebosephodi) | 6 comments What it means to be Afrikan? That is another topic on its own because being an ex-coconut. I do struggle with the fact that I get dictated to on what it means to be an "Afrikan".

Our parents have deep engraved wounds of "white envy" ( for lack of a better word). White supremacy is embedded in their unconcious minds. So we generally inherit that without seeing it of course and before we know it, we are then filled with "white envy". They know what it meant back then to be identified with things indigenous and that does not get wiped off their minds simply because we have democracy. So the only way that seems right to them is to equip their children with enough to make it and become socially acceptable. Hence the admiration in the townships of a child who cannot speak their language but speaks fluent English in a very smooth and silky accent.

I asked my baby brother(who only speaks English) who is 15 who he would vote for if he was eligible to. He did not think twice about it and DA was his choice. Simply because he relates more to the DA.


message 15: by ConnorD (last edited May 29, 2014 12:40AM) (new)

ConnorD | 181 comments Malebo wrote: "What it means to be Afrikan? That is another topic on its own because being an ex-coconut. I do struggle with the fact that I get dictated to on what it means to be an "Afrikan".

Our parents hav..."

I feel you on this Malebo and whilst South Africa was one of the last to be "independent" we have an opportunity to exert a more African/black agenda and feel less shame about being African.

I have a similar experience in that my friends just assume that because we go to these "white" schools that we naturally will assimilate into western or white culture, language, identity, looks, etc. It is assumed that because you're black and have problems with the ruling party that you will vote DA.

This book I am now re-reading and find the style of writing in the first part to reflect that need to behave, relate and write in a style that is acceptable to this concept of what is acceptable - frustrated me to no end. Perhaps it was deliberate from the author, I don't know - but it reflects my personal irritation with where we are going

Beverly wrote earlier that in the USA this phenomenon was experienced much earlier on in 1950s and 1960s and now having benefit of at least 60 years later we should look at what it led to. We have the benefit of hindsight - we should learn from this - did it lead to greater assertion of being black of African?
Are authentic black or African images, culture, identity, etc more acceptable by black people and the dominant in these societies now?






So many think


message 16: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Enjoyed reading this discussion thread.

While I had mentioned that some of the issues being addressed in Coconut was something that Black Americans went through in the 60s/70s but what I failed to mention is that these issues still come up today.

I wonder what if the differences with the outcome to these concerns and regards between America and South Africa.

In America Black America is a minority while this is not the case South Africa.

What I also saw in Coconut between the two stories is the difference in the class status between the characters.

There is still the question that gets asked/debated in the US - what is a true Black identity?
And for non-blacks for them the attributes that they assign to all Blacks are those associated with the "disadvantaged" class and anything other than that many consider an exception.

Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in Americais a book based on the African American Women's Voices Project, Shifting reveals that a large number of African American women feel pressure to com-promise their true selves as they navigate America's racial and gender bigotry. Black women "shift" by altering the expectations they have for themselves or their outer appearance. They modify their speech. They shift "White" as they head to work in the morning and "Black" as they come back home each night. They shift inward, internalizing the searing pain of the negative stereotypes that they encounter daily. And sometimes they shift by fighting back.

With deeply moving interviews, poignantly revealed on each page, Shifting is a much-needed, clear, and comprehensive portrait of the reality of African American women's lives today.


message 17: by Zoli (new)

Zoli | 17 comments Great important discussion. Thanks Afro Book club members
Beverly, can relate to that "shift white" and "shift black" scenario. It happens here too and you know it when you enter a corporate environment and can feel you "putting on" a face for that environment.

Remember although SA is majority black, the economy is still in hands of non-black and generally the more westernised black person is fronted. Though I must admit that South African television does have more natural hair, darker skin women and different body types than what we see portrayed on USA film and television - but not nearly as much as reflective of the black population. Most reporters, actors, sports commentators soon swop to weaves and the incidents of skin lightening increasing. In The Sabi book I read that SA is now on 35 percent (being the number of women that lighten their skin) - this is sad indeed. Was also thinking that women hv more pressure though. What do you think?

Political freedom does not necessarily bring with it self acceptance, I wonder if economic emancipation will bring this about ?

This book u recommend seems like something I would luv to read, thanks for the recommend Beverly

Malebo your story should be an interesting one to read about. It is brave. Shifting white is easier. You more likely to get the jobs, the roles - I had interesting and enlightening conversation the other day with a young woman who is on a similar journey. She said the "stress of west" can bring on schizoprenic personality and she was ready to opt out.

I think my generation must account for the internalised oppression though dont u think Malebo - at least among the born frees! And perhaps this is where class issue Bev refers to becomes really important. What gets done to stratify class among African population?

On a global level the images of black women in media and film still portray a world not comfortable with natural black.

There was an article going around that if Twelve Years a Slave was made in USA and had black director, Lupito wouldnt have been cast - I wonder what members think bout that? I wonder if SA director would have cast Lupito


message 18: by Diane (new)

Diane Brown (Diane_Brown) | 38 comments Great discussion on Coconut. This book was very relevant for the time, it might have been the first that reflected changing social dynamics in South Africa as apartheid was ending

Malebo I agree with Zoli that the generation that gave birth to born frees carry much of the responsibility for steering this generation into a less African persona. I was just noticing on twitter how few South Africans actually identify with African soccer, for example in the World Cup - even the commentators on SABC


message 19: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Diane wrote: "Great discussion on Coconut. This book was very relevant for the time, it might have been the first that reflected changing social dynamics in South Africa as apartheid was ending

Malebo I agree w..."


Interesting about the World Cup - so is there a team that the SA's are more inclined to support?

I would not call myself a big soccer fan but I am a big World Cup fan and have been watching more than I probably should.

I think as a generalization a generation or two after a major achievement that united people for a common cause has been achieved - that often the future generations are less aligned/aware as a group of having that "common vision" frame-of-mind.
Once that major barrier is removed then the splintering comes as the coalition of various groups that had different visions/objectives on how to proceed post achievement comes into play and some of these may be countered to what and how others want to achieve their goals.


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