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When Lions Roared: How Brave Young People Defied Apartheid (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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With uncanny timing, WLR appears on the country’s bookshelf. America still reels in horror at last week’s race-based shootings between police and civilians in St Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas. Back in 1976 South Africa, when the Morris Isaacson School march ended, 50 children were killed and 700 were injured at the hands of white police. The author brings apartheid’s history to the present with first-hand experience of racial discrimination, and above all, does it in a singular bi-cultural voice.
Against a relevant geo-political backdrop, the author lays out South Africa’s complex social and economic forces to underscore the stakes as the country struggled toward a 21st century democratic society: Dutch colonization, social stratification, gold and diamond mine exploitation, and international investment that turned eventually to sanctions and corporate divestiture.
The author’s look-back at South Africa in the time of, and after, apartheid compels, in no small part, because of the writer’s unique perspective as a naturalized American citizen of Indian descent: a “non-white” voice, in apartheid-era terms.
“I was a senior at a high school in an Indians-only suburb near Johannesburg when the shooting began,” opens the narrative about the June 16 Afrikaans-language protest march and what became the 1976 Soweto uprising.
In response, the author with other school prefects, immediately organized what became a five-week school boycott. And that school boycott triggered others across the country to boycott their schools. Days later, the UN Security Council convened and issued a unanimous condemnation of South Africa.
A blend of memoir and chronicle, the author weaves the political, personal, and historical in absorbing proportion. Readers never forget the author lived in and through troubled times because her voice is fundamentally humane. We mature because of, not in spite of difficulties.
Readers evolve, too, as the young author begins forming a political and humanitarian consciousness. When she discovered an additional exam was required only of blacks to enter the ophthalmology specialty we sense a young adult’s sharpened awareness and a medical doctor’s acuity, but not polemical fury. The author says it best: “(…the first year of my medical internship ) transformed me, during which I saw the most vulnerable side of humanity and…marveled at the resilience of the human spirit.
This book is also timely, coming as it does at a time when youth movements have become active again in South Africa, led now by college rather than high school students who, as in 1976, are advocating for better educational policies. I recommend this book highly.
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