This Thing Called the Future

The catalog copy from my forthcoming book, This Thing Called the Future by J.L. Powers

South Africa & AIDS. Fourteen-year-old Khosi yearns for this thing called the future. Does she want too much?

Khosi lives with her beloved grandmother—Gogo—her little sister Zi and her weekend mother in a matchbox house on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In that shantytown, it seems like somebody is dying all the time. Billboards everywhere warn of the disease of the day. Her Gogo goes to a traditional healer when there is trouble, but her mother, who works in another city and is wasting away before their eyes, refuses to go even to the doctor. She is afraid and Khosi doesn’t know what it is that makes the blood come up from her choking lungs. Witchcraft? A curse? AIDS?  Can Khosi take her to the doctor? Gogo asks. No, says Mama, Khosi must stay in school. Only education will save Khosi and Zi from the poverty and ignorance of the old Zulu ways.

 School, though, is not bad. There is a boy her own age there, Little Man Ncobo, and she loves the color of his skin, so much darker than her own, and his blue-black lips, but he mocks her when a witches’ curse, her mother’s wasting sorrow and a neighbor’s accusations send her and Gogo scrambling off to the sangoma’s hut in search of a healing potion.

 J.L. Powers holds master’s degrees in African History from State University of New York-Albany and Stanford. She won a Fulbright-Hayes to study Zulu in South Africa, and served as a visiting scholar in Stanford’s African Studies Department. This is her second novel for young adults.

Comments 7

  1. Krista Dong

    The iTEACH team in KZN can’t wait to see a copy of the book! Congratulations on tackling a tough (and fascinating) topic.

  2. Helen Musselman

    Your book is being published! Congratulations! I can’t wait to see it in person.

  3. Jess

    Thanks, guys! I can’t wait to hear your comments!

  4. Tabitha

    I can’t wait to read it!

  5. Tanesha

    I had to read an independent book for English class. I happen to stubble upon this book at the Chinn Library and it seemed interesting so i chose it. I had finished the book about a week ago and it was a fun ride reading it. This is a book that i want to buy and have in my home.

  6. Atiyya

    Sawubona
    I haven’t read your book but I will definitely try to get my hands on it! However, I find the statement “the ignorance of the old Zulu ways” to be offensive and ignorant of the profound beauty and depth of this people and culture. The “old Zulu ways” as I know it, professes concepts like Ubuntu and Masakhane and the family concept is a wide, inclusive and beautiful one that has no equivalent in Western culture. If this was just a sentence in the book, I could let it pass, but to have it written here and on Amazon as part of the review, smacks of Western bias. Sure, Khosi and Zi both need an education, but that education should equally support their own cultural heritage and highlight its depth rather than just pass on skills and a foreign mental framework. Sure, there is a lot flawed about the “the old ways” of any culture – let’s not go into that, or how so many of those old ways still influences the way people think in modern times and hinders them – but to include this in a 282 word review implies this sentiment is infused into the book. I would love to read the book and find out that I am wrong.

  7. Jess

    Atiyaa, thank you for your response. If you read the book, you will find that it is Khosi’s mother who believes the old ways are ignorant–not Khosi, the main character. She does find beauty and depth in her cultural heritage and, in fact, finds that it contains the main answer to her problems. I hope you will look at it and find your concerns assuaged. Thanks–J.L. Powers

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