When Lions Roared
Non fiction / YA
December 1, 2016
On a winter's day in 1968, in a town in South Africa, a nineteen-year-old medical student changed the course of his country's history. Steve Biko's philosophy of Black Consciousness would inspire thousands of black students to demand an equal education. In this wide-ranging history and analysis, Manju Soni melds her own personal history with the growth of the youth movement against apartheid. She chronicles that movement's evolution from the sporadic protests of the Soweto Uprising, to the emergence of a national youth movement with over a million members. Delving deep into the archives of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, she profiles in chilling detail the individuals in the apartheid government who made assassination a key tool of state policy. This story captures the power and desire of young black South Africans to become the agents of change..,,
Reading this book in 2017, in the US, with Trump as the new president, is a mixed bag. There are a dismaying number of overlaps between apartheid South Africa and the language and activities of the new administration: nationalism, white supremacy, fear of difference, silencing of media and dissent. It is disheartening and frightening to see this history (and the history of the US stance toward apartheid in the Reagan years) recurring in the present-day US. On the other hand, the courage and insistence of the demonstrators, along with their determination to bring about change, resonate strongly as well and provide hope.
The short chapters pull a reader along in the unfolding narrative that begins in the mid-60s with the trial of Mandela and ends with his release in 1990. The characters (and there are many!) are presented with some detail, and attention is given not only to their political but also to their personal lives —including some details that make them more human and less heroic.
I would recommend this book for use in an environment in which readers who are not aware of the history of apartheid have assistance contextualizing some of the movements and events, and where connections can be made between South African apartheid ideology and present-day stances within and among nations. The book is a great example of how young people are able to bring about change in the world. That said, I believe readers would have benefited from some additional after-matter; for example, it would have been helpful to have an index of names and places for tracing individuals and movements through the book; a timeline; a map; and even a glossary of acronyms. Also, including some references to sources (beyond nodding toward the transcripts of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission) or providing suggestions for further reading would have been helpful and lent support to the material. These can, of course, be found online for readers who would benefit from such resources. RECOMMENDED
Reviewed by Laura Apol, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Published in Africa Access Review (June 22, 2017)
Copyright 2017 Africa Access