Follow up read to The Promise
August 30, 2022 11:35 PM   Subscribe

I am enjoying reading The Promise by Damon Galgut, and would like to do some more reading about South Africa. Recommendations?

I realise that is quite a broad question, but this is because I really don't know a lot about the place beyond a kind of vaguely remembered high school and popular news story version. Histories or contemporary texts are both fine, with a preference for things that put factual or political details alongside something less dry and a bit more accessible, would be ideal. I've read Trevor Noah's memoir too, but something with a broader focus would be appealing.
posted by jojobobo to Education (6 answers total)
Best answer: Long Road to Freedom is an obvious choice, but for good reason. I also enjoyed Dancing Shoes is Dead, another memoir that's ostensibly framed by the sport of boxing (and the role sports played in the international community's efforts to isolate and pressure the apartheid South African government) that follows the author's years spent as an underground ANC activist. Heart of Redness is a fantastic novel that's deeply embedded in a couple different key historical moments in South Africa.
posted by exutima at 3:18 AM on August 31, 2022

Best answer: I appreciate the desire to cover a lot of ground in one book, but that's going to be hard beyond a textbook.

Down Second Avenue by Es’kia Mphahlele is a memoir that provides the perspective of a Black South African growing up pre-apartheid, and then experiencing the arrival of the apartheid government - he eventually has to go into exile for his political activism. It is beautifully written.

This BBC documentary from the 1980s covers the international sports boycott against apartheid SA.

If you can get ahold of "Africa: A Biography of the Continent" by John Reader, the chapter on mining in SA is pretty good, as summary chapters go.

If you have AppleTV, you can watch this documentary about Drum Magazine, which was a very popular publication covering township life before the apartheid gov shut it down.

The Calling of Katie Makanya is a semi-memoir (she told her life story to her employer's daughter, who transcribed it), of a Black South African, who was born in 1873.

This video by VOX does a good job looking at current segregation in SA.

Anyway, these are snapshots of different moments/perspectives. Hopefully someone will be able to recommend a general history book.
posted by coffeecat at 5:51 AM on August 31, 2022

Best answer: Mukiwa, a memoir from Peter Godwin. Outstanding.
posted by Dashy at 6:22 AM on August 31, 2022

Best answer: For general South African social history (late 19th/20th century), anything by Charles van Onselen. He takes a biographical approach in a couple of his books (eg. the Fox and the Flies or The Seed is Mine), which make for entertaining but historically rigorous reads. Speaking as a Historian.
posted by idlethink at 6:25 AM on August 31, 2022

Best answer: The Inheritors - new release by a friend. Note that author is American but has lived in SA for many, many years.
posted by tinydancer at 1:58 PM on August 31, 2022

The Number by Jonny Steinberg covers the role gangs and violence have in areas around Cape Town.
posted by PenDevil at 4:03 PM on September 30, 2022

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