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South African Novelist Puts Apartheid into Words at Lynden Sculpture Garden

Jul. 18, 2017
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South African author-activist Bianca Marais will speak at a ticketed event at the Lynden Sculpture Garden at 2pm on Sunday, July 23.

In 1976, the year Bianca Marais was born, the Soweto uprising in South Africa ended with the violent deaths of hundreds of black school children who were gunned down by police for protesting against apartheid. Tens of thousands of students gathered at their schools on June 16, 1976 to participate in a nonviolent demonstration to resist the introduction of Afrikaans (the “language of the oppressor”) as the language of instruction in all local Johannesburg schools. This massive student uprising was the most fundamental challenge to apartheid yet, and its violent effects echoed across all racial groups in the extremely divided country.

Marais, a South African native, takes an unflinching look at the government-sanctioned discriminatory policies and laws of apartheid-era South Africa in her debut novel Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. This literary chronicle fearlessly examines the country’s long era of racial “separateness” by bringing readers the unique voices of a 10-year-old white girl in Johannesburg and the Bantu village woman who becomes her caretaker. After both characters lose family members in the Soweto uprising, precocious 10-year-old Robin and struggling domestic worker Beauty form an inexplicable bond. Their choices, prejudices and personal tragedies will challenge both of them to confront a highly racist society, ultimately transforming their understanding of love and redemption.

Marais spent 10 years in Soweto providing aid to HIV/AIDS orphans. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada, and holds a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto. Marais will speak at a ticketed event at the Lynden Sculpture Garden (2145 W. Brown Deer Road) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 23. Tickets are $30, and copies of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words will be provided compliments of event co-sponsor Boswell Book Co.

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