Hum If You Don’t Know the Words

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 5.45.54 PM.pngI’m so glad I finally got to this one! It’s been on my radar since last year, but for some reason, I never got around to it.

It’s a beautiful story that reminded me in some ways of The Help except it’s set in racially segregated South Africa during the 1970s. Tensions finally erupt and the Soweto Uprising happens, leaving many people killed and the Blacks and Whites more at odds than ever.

During the Uprising, Robin is orphaned and her only family member is a self-absorbed aunt who really doesn’t want a kid. She hires Beauty, a Black woman who is searching for her daughter, who disappeared after the Uprising.

Soon, Robin and Beauty have bonded over their mutual losses, grief, and confusion. They come to care for and love one another. By the time the story ends, both characters have grown and changed in the most beautiful ways.

I was left feeling hopeful that, if given the opportunity, people can unlearn behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs that are blindly passed down from generation to generation. Beauty and Robin, Edith, Victor, the Goldmans, and Maggie (among many others) all see past the color of a person’s skin to see to the parts that truly matter.

The story may be set in 1970s South Africa, but it’s themes and messages are just as relevant today as it was then. Stories like this are necessary to teach us what it means to be a human. It allows readers to connect to a story in a way that mirrors their own lives, and hopefully, it inspires change so that the ugly pieces of history will not be repeated. When we know better, we do better. And books like this make us better.

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