Monday, April 2, 2012

Review - Afrika

Name: Afrika

Author: Colleen Craig

Date of publication:


For thirteen-year-old Kim, travel to South Africa with her journalist mother will mark the end of her childhood and the beginning of a remarkable journey. Expecting nothing more than three months in her mother’s homeland, Kim comes to terms with the country’s diverse and often shocking history. The Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in post-apartheid South Africa open her eyes to the tragedy and brutality of its segregationist policies. Kim’s first meeting with her relatives, her contact with schoolmates and cousins, bring her face-to-face with the realization that she is not as removed from this powerful story as she thought. As her mother struggles with her past, Kim becomes more and more determined to unlock the secret that has always kept her from knowing her father. Helped by the young son of a long-time family servant, whose own father was a casualty of Apartheid history, Kim eventually unlocks her mystery and brings her mother and herself to their own truth and reconciliation. -

My thoughts

I loved this book! This is the story of a young girl who came to South Africa with her mother with a plan to learn more about her heritage and she learned a lot more about herself than she bargained for.  Against the backdrop of the unfolding events surrounding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Kim our 13-year old protagonist discovers why true Afrikaaners spell Africa with a K, why some truths are too painful to consider and why sticking a pencil in your hair is not as casual an act as it seems.

I fell in love with the characters in this book.  Kim is the typical budding teenager, headstrong, defiant and a girl who knows it all.  She is a very complex character that vacillated between being a typical teenager who looked with disdain on her mother's lack of fashion sense and being a naive little girl unable to comprehend the forces of human oppression that she was suddenly faced with. The relationship between Kim and Rianna was dynamic. At times it seemed that Rianna was present only by the force of Kim's will alone.

I loved that this book made no apologies for the cultures it described. It highlights in simplicity the horrors of apartheid, but also shows the intricate nature of the relationships between cultures and classes. I enjoyed the friendship that Kim shared with Themba and his family. The bond between Kim and Themba was powerful, intimate and boundless, strengthened by sharing the pain they two of them felt being "fatherless".

I wish the book shared more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission itself.  The effects of this event are still reverberating in South Africa today but the book I felt diluted some of its meaning and purpose. That being said, this was a lovely read. This book moved at a leisurely pace that was easy to follow, yet exciting and kept you on the seat of your pants. A great YA read for "teenagers" of all ages.

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