This Thing Called the Future : A Novel
by Powers, J. L.

Fourteen-year-old Khosi's mother wants her to get an education to break out of their South African shantytown, although she herself is wasting away from an untreated illness, while Khosi's grandmother, Gogo, seeks help from a traditional Zulu healer.

J.L. Powers is an author, scholar, book reviewer and publsiher. Powers holds master's degrees in African History from State University of New York-Albany and Stanford University, won a Fulbright-Hayes to study Zulu in South Africa, and served as a visiting scholar in Stanford's African Studies Department in 2008 and 2009. She lives in San Francisco's Bay area and teaches writing at Skyline Community College.

Apartheid may be over, but for Khosi Zulu, 14, growing up in a slum near Pietermaritzburg, the daily struggle continues with poverty, crime, and the spreading plague of HIV/AIDS. She has a scholarship to a good school and a nice boyfriend, who is a fellow classmate, but a drunk man is stalking her in the dark streets, and a furious neighbor accuses Khosi's mother of theft, even while Mama lies dying. Grandmother (Gogo) tells Khosi to listen to the ancestors who speak to her in her dreams. But Mama wants her daughter to be a modern Zulu girl; science and Christianity are the answer, not "superstition." Can Khosi reconcile it all? Powers, who has spent a lot of time in South Africa and speaks Zulu, captures the local conflicts as well as the universal coming-of-age themes. Teens will sympathize with Khosi's weariness at hearing about her parents' heroic role in the past "struggle," and the tense story builds skillfully to an anguished revelation readers will want to discuss. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Set in an impoverished South African shantytown where post-Apartheid freedom is overshadowed by rampant AIDS and intractable poverty, this novel takes a loving, clear-eyed look at the clash of old and new through the experience of one appealing teenager. Khosi, 14, lives in an all-female household with her sister, Zi, and frail grandmother, Gogo, subsisting on Gogo's pension and Mama's salary as a teacher in the city (she comes home on weekends). Everyone in Khosi's world is poor. Where the struggle to survive is all-consuming, family loyalty trumps community. Clashes between Zulu customs and contemporary values further erode cultural ties and divide families. A scholarship student, Khosi loves science, but getting to school means dodging gangs and rapists hunting AIDS-free virgins. After a witch curses Khosi's family and Mama falls ill, Khosi and Gogo seek aid from a traditional Zulu healer, which Mama dismisses as superstition while fear and poverty keep her from accessing modern medicine. As stresses mount, Khosi's ancestors speak, offering her guidance. Supported by them, her family and classmate Little Man, Khosi vows to create a better future by synthesizing old and new ways, yet the obstacles she faces—some inherited, others newly acquired—are staggering. A compassionate and moving window on a harsh world. (glossary of Zulu words) (Paranormal fiction. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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