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A children’s novel about apartheid

4 November 2015

At the end of last year I published a children’s novel set in the apartheid period of South Africa, called Of wheels and witches.

It hasn’t attracted a vast readership; I could probably count the number of readers on the fingers of one hand, and they include my wife who read it in manuscript to tell me if she found any obvious plot holes and things like that.

So why did I write a “political” novel for children?

I’ve partly explained my reasons for writing the book here, in a review of reviews: Apartheid and racism in children’s literature | Khanya

And it’s not all political, as it’s mainly an adventure story. The difference from most children’s adventure stories is that the apartheid government is the villain of the piece. That, of course, would have made it unpublishable at the time, at least in South Africa. It is set in 1964, when the apartheid regime had been in power for 16 years, and had been tightening its grip on power by passing more repressive legislation every year.

cover picture with textThe children in the story range in age from 9-12, three white and one black. The white children are largely unaware of the political set-up in which they lived, as were most white children at that time. That was part of “white privilege” — if you were white, you could be quite unaware of the situation until it impinged directly on you.

The story also has a variety of other elements, some verging on fantasy — witchcraft, ikons and hints of a spiritual world lurking behind the outward appearances of things.

You can download the first few chapters as a free sample, to see if you like it — like browsing in a physical bookshop.

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