A vivid and impactful exploration of belonging, the names that we accept as part of our identity, the histories we inherit without our consent and its multidimensional impact on generations to come.
Thank you to Netgalley and University of Nebraska Press for providing me with an eARC of this fascinating epic poem, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I didn't know much about the subject matter of this narration, which is about the author's family's experience of the migrant labor system brought about by the gold mining industry in Johannesburg, South Africa. I did a little outside research over the process of reading this collection to find out more information, which gave me a deeper appreciation of it. I'm not very good at reading between the lines of poetry generally, but I enjoy the images that it creates. The images here being absolutely heartbreaking.
The way this horrific industry impacted and shaped Black society and Black families in South African is horrendous and the poetry really highlights the atrocities like a swift gut punch. The industry created a never ending circle of suffering. Black men suffered working in the mines and some eventually died from silicosis. Black women suffered through rape and abuse to ultimately bring about more children, especially male children who could also end up working in the mind. Also, as these families were separated, they missed having time spent and connections built together.
There are so many bits and pieces of references and inspiration in the notes that I need to comb through that I have a feeling a whole class could be taught on this epic poem and there would still not be enough time to get through everything. I always appreciate the chance to learn something new and this provides that in spades, at least for someone not familiar at all with South African history. I think someone who was already familiar with South African history would immediately get more out of the poetry, but those who invest a little time and effort will get just as much if not more.
Overall, I would recommend this for poetry readers, those interested in South African history, critical race theory, and any of the themes I mentioned. I think if you are not from South Africa or more familiar than I am with the history you may not get as much out of it, but I think those that put in a little time and do some research will be richly rewarded. I look forward to going through the notes and seeing more by this author in the future. I also look forward to seeing more from the African Poetry Book Series. I missed the first installment, but I hope to catch the rest of the books in the series.
A scorching, volcanic indictment of the treatment of workers and their families in South Africa's gold mines and mining town. Every line, every section, took my breath away with imagery and force and power. Author Uhuru Portia Phalafala documents the slow and inexorable deaths of the miners, the rape and abuse of their "living widows," the celebration of boy children, valued because one day they too can work in the mines. This is an essential book that charts the intersections of race and gender and wealth and poverty and abuse and early death.