Toko Loshe’s novel Shades of Africa is a riveting page turner about growing up in South Africa during the Apartheid. The story is told through the lenses of a young girl growing up in a family with a violent father and a passive mother, in the background of the violence and horror of the South African apartheid.

What I loved about this novel was the seamless parallel story lines between the personal and political. While Shades of Africa sets out an accurate and heartbreaking account of the Apartheid, that is not the only focus of the book. The novel discusses in a very frank manner domestic violence and abuse of women and children during that time.

The story focuses on a young girl Shirley who grows up in a family with an alcoholic and abusive father who takes no issue with violently beating his wife and children on a regular basis. Unfortunately Shirley’s mother is no protection against the abuse, in fact she is a passive woman who often gives up on her own needs and wants and goes along to get along. It’s quite tragic that Shirley grows up to end up in a similar situation as her mother, in a violent abusive relationship and children that she must protect.

One of the most intriguing things about this novel is the fact that a lot of the issues in the books are still very much current and relatable. While the Apartheid in South Africa has ended there is still so much violence and discrimination going on in many countries around the world, where dictatorships continue to persecute religious and ethnic minorities. As well the domestic violence of women and children are still prevalent in many countries in the world.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the South African Apartheid or general issues of oppression of ethnic or religious minorities.

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