Fiction for Young Adults

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Molope, Kagiso Lesego

Dancing in the Dust

Cape Town, South Africa: Oxford University Press, 2004. 192 p. ISBN 0-19-578526-6. Ages 12 and up.

Language: English

Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)

Tihelo is a teenage girl who lives with her sister and mother in a township (probably Soweto) near Johannesburg in the harsh 1980s. It was a time of protest and school boycotts, matched with police violence. Such realistic fiction is, of course, social history. This novel is genuine in its portrayal of teenage experience during the closing of the Apartheid years. The way that “[t]elevision was a world we escaped into, it was the envious, luxurious world of other people.” Their desire for better education was mixed with the “sell-out” accusation of going to a multiracial school. What little education they did receive did not cover such topics as sex or pregnancy. “None of this information was available to us through our parents, and there was no such thing as a library in the township, or even within a hundred kilometres of where we lived.” 

There is more general description of township life than storyline, but that does not prevent this novel from being powerful. The struggle for freedom in South Africa was just that – powerful. In this novel we read of the struggle both inside a teenager and in the world around her. Dancing in the Dust is about a teenager, but it needs more than the average teenager to read such a deep, mature, almost adult novel. What is far more exciting is that this is the first-ever South African Honour List book written by a Black South African.


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