This Book Betrays My Brother
This Book Betrays My Brother
I didn’t like lying to Papa, but Basi and I understood that we lied for each other when it was necessary. We not only did this effortlessly but also with pride. We each had an invisible spear and shield in front of us, which we brought out whenever the other needed it. I thought of us as hunters in the wild: tuck your friend behind you, hold the shield, point the spear and talk down the lion. But these were easier, simpler times.
This Book Betrays My Brother follows the story of Nedi, a 13-year-old girl struggling with witnessing her brother commit a violent and disturbing crime. The story is told from Nedi’s first person point of view as she comes of age in South Africa in the 1990s, post-apartheid. The novel delivers an authentic depiction of the complex issues of gender, race, and class in South Africa in an accessible way for readers of all backgrounds. Through Molope’s elegant and effective prose, readers will gain an understanding of culture and community in the place Nedi calls home.
From the outset of the novel, Naledi describes her brother, Basi, as the golden boy of their community. From the day of his birth, Basi is described as being admired and revered by everyone. Nedi and her brother have a close and trusting relationship throughout their childhood and into their adolescence. During the course of the story, readers gain an understanding of how much Nedi trusts and finds comfort in Basi’s company and conversations. Nedi also goes on to describe her parents as proud, especially her mother who feels that they are of a higher social class than the community they moved away from.
The class struggles between the town they live in and the poorer area down the hill from their home are evident in the novel, especially from Nedi’s mother’s point of view. Nedi and her brother also go to a good school which gives them the opportunity to lead a successful life.Basi is focused and determined to be a lawyer and also vocally defends his best friend’s mother who he believes is wrongfully jailed for killing her abusive husband. His understanding of women’s rights also adds to the complexity of his character as he eventually rapes his own girlfriend.
The novel shows the varied perspectives and sides that are taken when an admired male is accused of rape. Molope’s narrative is not didactic or moralistic as she describes the complexity of family loyalties in an extremely difficult situation. Nedi’s perspective and actions taken from adolescence to adulthood are realistic and relatable as she copes with witnessing her brother’s violent actions. The novel is significant and can accompany difficult discussions related to rape, consent, and the importance of women’s voices being heard, valued, and acknowledged,
Vasso Tassiopoulos is a graduate of the Master of Arts program in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia. She is currently completing her Master of Teaching degree at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.