Thursday, January 16, 2020

Journey to Jo'Burg: A South African Story

By Beverley Naidoo
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Beverley’s Photo :: Jacket Art :: Beverley’s Website
HarperCollins; November 12, 2019; Paperback; ISBN: 9780064402378; 96 pages; $6.99

In my tenth grade class, I have been reading aloud Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, and when I read Journey to Jo'Burg, I couldn't help but notice the similarities in the stories and the suffering of so many people during apartheid in South Africa. While Trevor Noah's memoir is geared towards young adults and adults, Journey to Jo'Burg is perfect for older children to tweens. Siblings Naledi and Tiro must find their mother in Johannesburg, after their younger sister becomes sick, and they need to get to a hospital. The problem with finding their mother in Johannesburg is finding their way through apartheid borders. Traveling through Soweto (with much the same experience as Noah), Naledi and Tiro face unmistakable and unforgiving discrimination and injustice.

Heartbreaking and angry, Naidoo paints a story of struggle, racism, and poverty while also depicting characters who never give up and do what they need to do to save their family. While the book focuses on the journey to find their mother, Mma has her story told from the perspective of someone who works for the rich. She barely makes any money nor can she provide a lot of basic necessities for her children.

The reader simultaneously roots for the children to find their mother, and the family to survive and fight the apartheid system.

About Beverley Naidoo:
Beverley Naidoo is the award-winning author of several children’s books, including The Other Side of Truth, No Turning Back, and Chain of Fire. Her books center on political corruption, struggle, and injustices that occur in South Africa. After being exiled, Naidoo moved to England where she married and had children with another South African exile. 

Separated from their mother by the harsh social and economic conditions prevalent among blacks in South Africa, thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother make a journey over 300 kilometers to find her in Johannesburg. Mma lives and works in Johannesburg, far from the village Naledi and Tiro call home. When their baby sister suddenly becomes very sick, Naledi and Tiro know, deep down, that only one person can save her. Bravely, alone, they set off on a journey to find Mma and bring her back. It isn't until they reach the city that they come to understand the dangers of their country, and the painful struggle for freedom and dignity that is taking place all around them.

Additional Praise for the Book

"Growing awareness of the sufferings of South Africa's black children brings renewed point to Beverley Naidoo's Journey to Joburg, a story for young readers, the more searing for its gentleness, that makes them ask questions we must learn to answer." 
-Guardian, UK

“ simple and straightforward that it makes accessible even to quite young children the difficult and the profound.” 
-Times Educational Supplement, UK

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