Nominated by:

City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Library & Information Services, South Africa

Publisher of nominated edition:

Kwela Books, South Africa

Rachel’s Blue

Zakes Mda    

2016 Longlist

Jason stops to listen to yet another busker . . . He concludes that it is not for her voice – rather airy and desperate – that her open guitar case is bristling with greenbacks. It is for her strawberry blonde bangs peeping out from under her hat, and her deep blue eyes, and her willowy stature, and her brown prairie skirt of plaid gingham, and her bare feet with tan lines drawn by sandals, and her black T with “Appalachia Active” in big white letters across her breasts – the entire wholesome package that stands before him. She is trying hard to make her voice sound full-bodied and round, but she was not born for singing. She loses a beat to say “thank you” after Jason deposits a single, and then she tries hard to catch up with the song before it goes out of control.

At that moment Jason recognises her. Rachel. Rachel Boucher from Jensen Township . . .

When Rachel Boucher and Jason de Klerk meet again – five years after high school – they immediately renew their friendship. But for Jason their friendship is just a stepping stone to something more – a romantic union that seems to have the blessing of the whole community. That is until Rachel becomes involved with Skye Riley.

As Skye and Rachel grow ever closer, Jason’s anger at the relationship boils over into violence, violence that turns the community on its head, setting old friends and neighbours against one another. But this is just a taste of things to come as, it turns out, Rachel is pregnant . . .

(from publisher)

About the Author

Zakes Mda, one of South Africa’s foremost authors (novelist, poet and playwright of more than 20 works), needs no introduction. He has won numerous literary awards in South Africa and the USA, including both the M-Net Award for English Fiction and the Sunday Times Fiction Award. He has studied in Lesotho, South Africa and the USA and is a founding member of the African Writers Trust, an initiative that aims to bring together African writers. Zakes is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University’s Department of English.

Librarian’s Comments

This book was written as a response to the legal situation that persists in many US states today – that the father of a child conceived from rape can claim the same paternity rights as any father. Although the setting of Rachel’s Blue is located in Athens County, Ohio, the issues raised in the book such as unemployment, violent crime, hunger, tic dealers and community protests are familiar to South Africa.

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