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Zukiswa Wanner

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Betraying Our Sisters: A Review of This Book Betrays My Brother by Kagiso Lesego Molope

This Book Betrays my BrotherKagiso Lesego Molope’s third novel, This Book Betrays My Brother, may very well be South Africa’s Nervous Conditions [a novel by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga] in its tackling of gender issues, sexual violence and race from the perspective of a young woman in a patriarchal society.

Written as a testimony, the story is narrated by Naledi, younger sister to the popular, brilliant and good-looking Basi. Naledi soon realises that when she wants something, it is best to go through her loving older brother, the golden child. Despite her attempts to please her mother, she will always be “the other child”.

Naledi’s parents own the main supermarket in the township. Soon they have made enough money to move on up the hill to the double-storeyed section of town. When they move, the children are placed in better schools and Naledi’s mother wants nothing to do with the embarrassing people from the wrong side of the tracks, including Kgosi, Basi’s best friend.

It is through Kgosi, Basi meets the beautiful and graceful Moipone. Moipone is there when rugby captain Basi is embarrassed by his coach before a match and barred from playing because the other team will not play against a black boy. She is also there when Kgosi and Basi throw a welcome home party for Kgosi’s mother, Sis Nono, who has just returned from serving a sentence for killing her spouse.

After this party things go awry. Through Naledi’s eyes, Molope dissects the community’s perspective on rape.

Assertions about the act are dismissed because the “victim” did not report it on time. Some of the rapist’s greatest supporters are women, who question what the victim was wearing. The observations of a witness told to a third party mean nothing; she is silenced for lacking loyalty.

If there is any criticism to be made about This Book Betrays My Brother, it is that the rapist does not get his comeuppance. Instead, he becomes a lawyer who defends victims of gender-based violence. He extends his “forgiveness” to the witness against him, suggesting she was too young to know anything.

But perhaps disappointment in this turn of events should not even feature as criticism.

This is the reality of rape in South Africa. Molope’s novel handles social realism better than many that have attempted to do the same.

In a country where some of the men in government, business, and sport have been accused of violence against women, this novel is a must-read.

And, in a South Africa where pornography in schools is passed around through teenagers’ cellphones, perhaps it is fitting that the book is published by Oxford University Press – it has a chance of making it on to school reading lists.

Written in simple yet beautiful prose, it should elicit some much-needed conversations in book clubs as the world observes 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

Book details

  • This Book Betrays my Brother by Kagiso Lesego Molope
    Book homepage
    EAN: 9780199059225

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A Tangled Romance: A Review of Chibundu Onuzo’s The Spider King’s Daughter

The Spider King\'s DaughterAt the beginning of The Spider King’s Daughter, I was convinced I was reading a fairy tale.

The blurb at the back would have many believe the same too.

Boy from the wrong side of town meets girl from the upper side of town. They fall in love, overcome one or two obstacles, and they live happily ever after.

Simple, yes? Not.

The Spider King is Olumide Johnson, a rich man with vast business interests who spreads his largesse to everyone who is anyone in Lagos, Nigeria.

At the start of the book, Johnson’s daughter, Abike, watches her father’s chauffeur drive over her dog twice, which she believes is significant because she views it as a ploy by her father to hurt her.

When she examines the dog and sees it suffering, she gets back in the car and asks, “Daddy, please can we run over my dog again?”, qualifying her request: “Daddy, please make sure he hits the head this time.”

Through this test, the ruthless Olumide Johnson has found the one child who shall be his heir.

The story, told through the voices of a hawker and Abike in Lagos, begins when she is 17.

One afternoon in Lagos, Abike sees the attractive hawker while being driven from school in the family Jeep. She returns to the same spot the day after – and soon she is buying an ice cream every afternoon. Abike is a child who always gets what she wants and seems close to developing an affection for the hawker. But he appears to be withholding a secret.

Why is he so well-spoken?

What she does not know is that the hawker is a rich boy who falls on hard times after his father dies.

His mother has a breakdown after the death of his father and he is forced to become the “man of the house”. His deceased father had left no inheritance for his son and the hawker was forced to quit his exclusive private school for a government school and, later, for the streets as a hawker so he could take care of the family.

She soon invites him to her house, and he takes her on walks to parts of Lagos from which her sheltered princess life barred her.

The hawker learns unpleasant truths about Abike’s family. The beggar he befriended, Aunty Precious, his mother and many others seem to be tied to the Spider King.

I was amazed to discover that writer Chibundu Onuzo is just 21 years of age.

While reading this book I said out loud to myself: “Chibundu O, like a dramatic Nollywood actress. Kill me dead. This girl has skills.”

Wanner is the author of several novels, most recently Men of the South.

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