This Thing Called the Futureby J.L. Powers
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 even to go 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 witch's 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.
For 14-year-old Khosi, life has become far more complicated than she would like. She lives with her mother, her grandmother “Gogo,” and her younger sister, Zi, in a Zulu shantytown in South Africa, where conditions are dismal: no one has money, and there are weekly funerals for AIDS victims. On top of everything, a neighbor accuses her mother (who becomes violently ill) of stealing, and Khosi’s developing body is drawing unwanted attention, particularly from a drunken neighborhood man who attacks Khosi on multiple occasions. Despite her circumstances, Khosi is resilient; her passions are science and her unshakable connection to the spirit world. “Science is important,” she reflects. “So are the old ways. But because they are so stubborn, it makes it really difficult to navigate a path between them to be my own person.” Through the eyes of a conflicted teenager, Powers (The Confessional) composes a compelling, often harrowing portrait of a struggling country, where old beliefs and rituals still have power, but can’t erase the problems of the present. Readers will be fully invested in Khosi’s efforts to secure a better future.
J.L. Powers holds an MA in African history from State University of New York-Albany and Stanford University. She won a Fulbright-Hays grant 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.