Khosi lives with her beloved grandmother—Gogo—her little sister Zi and her weekend mother in a matchbox house on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In that shantytown, it seems like somebody is dying all the time. Billboards everywhere warn of the disease of the day. Her Gogo goes to a traditional healer when there is trouble, but her mother, who works in another city, who is wasting away before their eyes, refuses to go even to the doctor. She is afraid and Khosi doesn’t know what it is that makes the blood come up from her choking lungs. Witchcraft? A curse? AIDS? Can Khosi take her to the doctor? Gogo asks. No, says Mama, Khosi must stay in school. Only education will save Khosi and Zi from the poverty and ignorance of the old Zulu ways.
School, though, is not bad. There is a boy her own age there, Little Man Ncobo, and she loves the color of his skin, so much darker than her own, and his blue-black lips, but he mocks her when a witch's curse, her mother’s wasting sorrow and a neighbor’s accusations send her and Gogo scrambling off to the sangoma’s hut in search of a healing potion.
Catch up on the J.L. Powers Blog Tour
Two weeks of blog posts, interviews and reviews of This Thing Called The Future, from the book's hardcover release in 2011.
Click here for the full list of participating blogs.
Click here read another great interview with Powers over at the Big Blue Marble blog.
"This novel takes a loving, clear-eyed look at the clash of old and new through the experience of one appealing teenager… A compassionate and moving window on a harsh world."
"… a compelling, often harrowing portrait of a struggling country, where old beliefs and rituals still have power, but can’t erase the problems of the present. Readers will be fully invested in Khosi’s efforts to secure a better future."
"Despite pervasive HIV and the specter of rape, as well as the restrictions on girls’ freedom that are her society’s only response, Khosi manages to find her power, refuse to be a victim, and carve out a future for herself that embraces both the modern and the traditional."
"This is a powerfully gripping, eye-opening novel that doesn’t pull any punches, and readers will long remember Khosi and the trials and tribulations facing South Africans as they venture forth into the modern world while desperately holding onto their heritage."
"This Thing Called the Future may deal with bleak topics, but there is hope and triumph, too. As Khosi looks toward that mysterious thing called the future, she believes she can make hers beautiful despite the sorrow around her."
"Bright and responsible, Khosi is growing up with her mother, grandmother and younger sister in a community devastated by AIDS and gangsters. She's torn between traditional beliefs and modern ambitions—and Powers, writing her second novel, makes it clear that Khosi's circumstances permit no facile answers."
Ann Angel, author of Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing
"Khosi's heartbreaking and redemptive coming-of-age story compels us to face the demons within cultural superstitions and choose a future that can be changed."
Emily Wing Smith, author of The Way He Lived and Back When You Were Easier to Love
"In a literary landscape cluttered with the imagined powers of the paranormal, This Thing Called the Future introduces us to the reality that supernatural strength exists here and now. Gripping, honest, and eye-opening, this book will change the way you see the world."
Sarah Ellis, author of Odd Man Out and The Several Lives of Orphan Jack
"J.L. Powers takes the challenges and sorrows of contemporary South Africa and renders them powerfully immediate in the character of Khosi, a girl negotiating coming of age in her post-apartheid, AIDS-ravaged country. Provocative, unvarnished, loving."
William Beinart, Author of Twentieth-Century South Africa
"Basing her story on detailed research, Powers gets into the shoes of her imagined protagonist and sensitively explores her perceptions. This is a wonderful book with which to think about contemporary South Africa - about the trials of everyday life, about dreams, witchcraft, physical danger, adolescent love, and not least about ambition."