Hum If You Don't Know the Words (Hardcover)
It is a time of unrest in 1976 Johannesburg, South Africa. Repressed Blacks (Kafirs) are taking up arms, demonstrating and revolting against the ruling White Africaners. It appears to be a world where hatred is the common language. Beauty, a black Xhosa woman and Robin, a young entitled white child, find their worlds intersect out of necessity. Robin is a child without her mother and Beauty is a mother without her children. They have both been left behind, and are grieving in their own ways. This powerful book takes a serious look at apartheid South Africa, at a time when Nelson Mandela, a champion for the blacks, was already imprisoned. The novel allowed me to “feel” what it must have been like to live in such an unsettling world, from the perspective of both whites and blacks.
-Recommended by Virgie— From August Staff Picks to Inspire and Delight
Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.
Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred...until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin's parents are left dead and Beauty's daughter goes missing. After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection. Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.
About the Author
Bianca Marais holds a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto's SCS, and her work has been published in World Enough and Crime. Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans. Originally from South Africa, she now resides in Toronto with her husband.