Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song by Kathryn Erskine (review)
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Reviewed by
Erskine, Kathryn Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song; illus by Charly Palmer. Farrar, 2017 48p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-374-30301-3 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4668-9746-5 $9.99 R 5-8 yrs

In a career that withstood apartheid in South Africa, Miriam Makeba put her vocal talent to work supporting her fellow black citizens (and, after 1970 legislation, more correctly “non-citizens”) and advocating for other nations to bring pressure to bear on the South African government to end discrimination. The mission launched her to global fame, but it exacted the price of exile from her own country, where she would not return until after apartheid was dismantled. Erskine writes with pride and passion of Makeba’s accomplishments, and Palmer’s densely brushed paintings exude the strength and persistence of peoples immovably rooted to their homeland. In a thoughtful author’s note, Erskine speaks of her own childhood as a “guest” family in South Africa, dancing with her mother to Makeba’s outlawed music, and she recalls specific instances in which the apartheid system unintentionally repressed and endangered white people like her as well. An appended timeline adds information on civil rights developments in both South Africa and the United States throughout Makeba’s lifetime, as well as information on her personal life not included in the text. Embedded throughout the narration are song titles that should send Erskine’s audience hustling off to sample and download. Multimedia resources, lists for further reading, and a glossary are also included.

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