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<< Back to This Thing Called The Future

This Thing Called The Future

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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"In a tiny house on the poverty-stricken outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, fourteen-year-old Khosi lives between two worlds: the world of science, progress, and formal education that her mother wants for her, and the world of traditional Zulu medicine and magic that Gogo (her grandmother) believes in. She excels in science at school, but her dreams warn her of a malevolent witch who means her and her family harm, and she is plagued by a drunken man whom no one has ever seen before but who has singled her out for abuse. When her mother falls ill of “the disease of the day” (AIDS) and refuses to go to the doctor, Khosi is frantic to learn what has caused this terrible fate to befall her family. She and Gogo undergo a traditional purification ritual that reveals to Khosi not only the truth behind her mother’s illness but also her own calling to become a sangoma, a traditional healer. This is a fascinating glimpse into a worldview that, while foreign to many readers, is made plausible through Khosi’s practical and conflicted perspective. As much as she wants to please both her mother and Gogo, she ultimately learns to rely on her own experience, even when it is called into question by the boy she wants to please most of all, Little Man. Her common-sense approach to acknowledging the value of both old and new ways of thinking convince Little Man (and readers) not to be narrow-minded and dismissive of things that don’t fit neatly into a scientific paradigm and that emotions, particularly anger, are powerful forces that must be acknowledged in order to set things right. Ultimately, Khosi’s strength and self-reliance serve as a strong example that heading toward the future doesn’t mean turning one’s back on the past."

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