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This Thing Called The Future

El Paso Scene

"Powers’ first novel The Confessional was set close to home (she grew up in Vinton, Texas), centering on the lives of students at a thinly-veiled version of Cathedral High School in El Paso. Her second novel aimed at young adults, although taking place in South Africa, is even closer to home for this author. Powers admits in her 'Acknowledgments' that the central character, Khosi, 'has many of the same needs, desires, and fears that I had at fourteen.'

Khosi lives with her younger sister and grandmother in a South African shantytown, surrounded by poverty, AIDS, witchcraft and sexual abuse of women. All these dark forces swirl around her as she tries to find a right way - fending off a drunk sexual predator, reconciling her school studies with ancient ways, falling in love with a schoolmate, longing for a mother who must work in a far-away town and returns HIV-positive, coping with a vindictive neighbor and caring for her sister, Zi.

As the title suggests, hope is the theme throughout the book. Khosi perseveres because she sees the choices others make and believes she can make different choices with a different outcome. She manages to embrace all that is good in her life - her loving grandmother Gogo, the earnest boyfriend Little Man, even the syncretistic spirituality that includes guidance from ancestors and medicine from folk healers all mixed with Christian religion.

Powers brings to this story not only her own sensibilities from her adolescence, but years of studying African history and culture. Her first novel was published as she began a doctoral program in African Studies at Stanford University. She ultimately opted to pursue her writing career instead, although she continued some postgraduate studies at Stanford and studied Zulu in South Africa on a Fulbright-Hayes grant.

This Thing Called the Future is an excellent introduction to another culture and the hardships faced by young people growing up amid poverty, disease and ignorance. It’s written with enough depth and style that parents and teachers will find it a worthwhile read as well, especially so that they can discuss these issues with young adult readers."
- Randy Limbird, 

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