January Sun~One Day, Three Lives, A South African Town
by Richard Stengel
This book was written by the author who collaborated with Nelson Mandela to write Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. In fact, it was this book that caused Mandela to want to pick Stengel for his collaborator.
The author writes about what a small town in South Africa is/was like in the late 1980s. The setting is in Brits, South Africa where tourists would never go. It was when apartheid still existed, some 20 years before freedom. The reader learns of the feelings and perceptions of an Afrikaaner family, an Indian family and a Black family (with some Coloured--mixed race--that identify as Black). While reading each person's opinions, I OFTEN reminded myself how complex issues are and how each of us percieves things differently.
There were opinions stated by the community members that were so varied even within their own families. Stengel was able to make the reader see this by simply writing what he saw and heard. I highly recommend this book as it really makes one realize those truths stated above: issues are complex, each of us lives in his or her own world.
If I would share every passage that I marked in my book, I would practically be rewriting half the book! Instead I will share two quotes that I think will entice you to read the book. They follow:
"...he [Jai, an Indian] resents the pervasive admiration of America in South Africa. He thinks most people respect America for the wrong reasons. 'There is an emulation of America here. The U.S. is now what Britian once was. There's a fetish about American clothing, American products, among blacks, Indians, and whites. Whites my not like Ameircan politics toward South Africa, but they use America as a role model. To them, America represents the triumph of the little guy, which is how they see themselves.' Jai says that Indians admire America because of its affluence, not its ideals.
Jai knows some Indians from Brits who have returned from visiting America and reported that all American blacks live in slums and are treated like second-class citizens. But Jai is undismayed. These Indians, Jai suggests, make their observations in a resigned way, as if to say, it is hopeless, blacks are msitreated everywhere.
Jai has heard of a few Indians who have emigrated to America and then returned to South Africa. They said they did not like the cold, or that there were too few Hindus or too many Muslims, or that it was hard to start a business. But mainly, Jai says, they confessed that they missed having servants. 'You must be very wealthy in America, they say, to afford servants. Here it is easy to have them.'
Well-to-do Indians have long asked the question: what good is money in South Africa if you are not free to enjoy it? The Indians who have returned from America have reversed the axiom: what good is freedom, they say, if you are too poor to enjoy it. 'They have returned,' Jai says, 'because the would rather have servants than freedom.'"
[Afrikaaner, Dr. De la Rey's thoughts]
"...'The black man in America developed because he had civilized people all around him.'
'American blacks are superior to our blacks,' he says. De la Rey would entertain an American black in his home long before he would ever do the same for a South African black. Morne's [De la Rey's teenage son] favorite television show--like that of white South Africa as a whole---is "The Bill Cosby Show.' To many whites in Brits, the Huxtables are just a typical black American family."
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