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South African Novelist Discusses Her Country's Politics In New Book

Penguin Random House

Writer Bianca Marais was born in South Africa in 1976. It was a time when the country was still very much ruled under the apartheid laws that separated people of different skin colors. Her first novel, Hum If You Don’t Know The Words, reflects that difficult time in her nation’s history.

READ: Author Bianca Marais On Apartheid, Growing Up, and How They Shape Her Novel

Marais’ second novel, If You Want to Make God Laugh, takes place post-apartheid South Africa as Nelson Mandela is elected president.

While that was a more hopeful time in the country, the political realities of the 1990s weren’t pretty: whites and blacks were still very divided along socioeconomic and racial lines, and the AIDS crisis that was about to explode into an epidemic was being ignored by the government.

Marais believes telling these stories again and again is important.

"Who we are today is so formed and so shaped by our life experiences, and trauma more than anything sort of fires our resolute clay as they say; it shapes us," Marais says.

Marais will be in Milwaukee Friday for an appearance at Boswell Book Company.