- When Morning Comes by Arushi Raina
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-896580-69-2 $16.95
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-926890-14-2 $10.95 R Gr. 8-12
Four South African teens are drawn together as unlikely allies during the 1976 student instigated Soweto Uprising. Zanele is a committed activist, attending school or helping her mother—a maid for a wealthy white family—by day, and singing (badly) in a dive or attending student strike planning meetings at night. Jack, scion of the family for whom Zanele’s mother works, coasts on his privilege, and he is only drawn into the black community’s drama when he is smitten by Zanele after he and his buddies sneak into the club in blackface on a lark. Thabo is a gangsta on the rise, also taken with Zanele, but he’s committed only to his own prospects. Meena is the daughter of a Indian shopkeeper, living on the margins of black and white societies and stealthily contributing to the strike plans by forwarding illegal pamphlets to select customers. Raina is equally adept at seamlessly integrating information on the cause of the uprising—a new national policy to use Afrikaans [End Page 277] as the instructional language in upper schools—and at building an accelerating human drama. Even U.S. readers with little prior knowledge of the event will recognize parallel themes from youth involvement in the American civil rights movement, with the students’ deadly confrontation with police on a bridge to a peaceful stadium rally chillingly resonant of the Edmund Pettus Bridge showdown a decade earlier. Historical fiction fans will find common ground here with teens who favor dramatic thrillers.