I haven’t read or studied much about South Africa, though I do remember studying about apartheid and Nelson Mandela in school.
Yet, when we’re children, it’s easy to think of things as ‘long ago’. Even a year is a long time in a child’s life. Reading When Morning Comes, I realised with quite a shock that 1976, the year when the book is set, was not so long ago. The Immorality Act astounded me, for I read about it with a clear understanding of how recently it was a reality. It made me think of posts I’ve seen on social media recently talking about pamphlets discouraging inter-racial marriage. It made me realise, again, how long the journey ahead is.
I remember learning about Mandela being the first president of South Africa, and about him fighting apartheid. I was much older when I realised that what I studied was not history–he was the first president of South Africa as I was studying about him.
The recentness of events somehow makes When Morning Comes all the more powerful. When cruelty and discrimination belong to the distant past, it’s easy to brush it off as something belonging to older, more barbaric times. Even though we see almost daily reminders that we still live in cruel, inhuman times, works like this are crucial, for they remind us that change does not just happen; it needs to be created.
When Morning Comes brings the year 1976 alive. Like all powerful historical fiction, it urged me to find out more about the time. Told from the points of view of four narrators, it creates four realities for the reader, four different world views. In light of recent events, my breath caught when Zanele, a Black student kneels before a white cop. I wondered what would happen, how the scene would play out.
And then, the book held out a promise of hope, which made the story more poignant than ever. Things go wrong in the characters’ lives, not once, but many times. We come face to face with betrayal, violence and families torn asunder. And yet, the story brings hope. The possibility of a better future exists because passionate young people are willing to make it happen.
As I finished the last pages of When Morning Comes, that is what I was left with – a sense that things are not perfect, yet we can make them better with everything we do.
|Title||When Morning Comes|
|Tags||Historical Fiction, YA, South Africa|