This latest offering in young-adult fiction by J.L. Powers makes the personal political as the author details the coming of age of Khosi, a young girl living in one of the townships. Khosi lives with her beloved grandmother, who adheres to the traditional ways. Her mother, who works in another city, is sure the only thing that will save her girls is an education in the new ways of the new world. This struggle between the old and the new is part of daily life. The next-door neighbor believes Khosi’s mother, under the guise of helping an ignorant woman navigate this brave new world, has stolen the cash life insurance due her after her husband’s death. She engages a witch to exact revenge. It is easy to believe in the power of witches, someone is dying every day. Is it witchcraft or AIDS, the disease everyone is warned about every day everywhere they look? Khosi’s mother begins to waste away, coughing up blood and refusing to see a doctor. Daughter and grandmother collude to see a traditional healer in hopes of lifting the curse. Life goes on through all of this. Khosi finds herself first being verbally harassed, then physically harassed, then assaulted by a strange old man who is not quite human. Is he a dream or is he real? Khosi is determined to remain “pure” for her future husband, finish school, and become a nurse, a wife, and a mother. She finds simple compassion and strength in her developing relationship with the traditional healer. Once her mother dies, Khosi realizes her mother did indeed steal the money. After a long internal struggle, she returns the money to the neighbor, decides to apprentice herself to the healer and train later in Western medicine. She and her young man will figure out how to have the life they want. Khosi’s story is not only an everywoman story of a girl growing up, it is an allegory of all the many challenges facing South Africa and its people. Cinco Puntos Press (cincopuntos.com). —Review: Angel Curtis
Angel Curtis is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.