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Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite
My Brother Themba by Michele van Rensburg is a novel with strong historical underpinnings, exploring racial tension in South Africa. It follows two key characters, Themba, the child of an inter-racial relationship, and Alex, a white boy. Against the backdrop of the apartheid system, these two boys forge a powerful relationship but the color line makes it impossible for them to deepen the ties that bind them together. Themba is an outcast in his society and as he grows up, he becomes aware that he is different. Themba and Alex follow separate paths from high school. As they grow older and become adults, Themba begins to understand the system that has oppressed him. He has a strong connection with a father figure in his life. He also joins politics and political movements. However, his childhood friend, Alex, becomes a man broken by the system, living with pent-up anger and resentment. Can these characters heal and find their foothold in a society defined by racial lines?
This is a book with a compelling and historical theme: apartheid. The author does an impeccable job in writing about South African society under the apartheid system. Set in the 1980s, the book features vivid scenes of racial discrimination. It is a poignant story and that will move readers as they witness the characters’ psychological and emotional breakdowns. Here is a story that will bring tears to the eyes of many readers and arouse strong emotions of anger. Michele van Rensburg creates characters that are real and that fit perfectly in the world she has put them in. Her message will be irresistible to readers. The setting is wonderfully created and the entire story is filled with strong social commentaries and racial observations. My Brother Themba brings ‘80’s South Africa alive and transports readers into a world where the value of a human being is determined by the shade of his skin. One character is caught between the two dominant colors. Can he own two worlds?