“Growing Caterpillar, “Tell me “, “he said”, What is this thing about time? Why is it better to be late than early? People are always saying, we must wait. What are they waiting for? “Well, “I said, feeling myself being led by Giovanni into deep and dangerous water, I guess people waiting order to make sure of what they feel”. – Keletso Mopai in Giovanni’s Room – If You Keep Digging.
This anthology of 15 short stories reflect the challenges of sexuality, traditional beliefs and family dynamics that affect the youths in South Africa.
The story of “Professor Banda Not Unique” is an issue that is currently being spoken about more openly and victims are finding the courage to speak out.
“Skinned” highlights the challenges albinos face in the society and it is a relief that someone is talking about this discrimination which is not often spoken about or discussed.
“Growing Caterpillars” and “Becoming a God” border around relationships and struggles of disclosure, acceptance and expectations by family, the concept of beauty and what tradition accepts.
“Letty”, “Blood of Filth” and “Madness” are stories that highlight the unspoken abuse in families, the power of forgiveness and open disclosure of silenced emotions.
“Fourteen” and “Becoming a God” are based on African spirituality and after life. This one, I didn’t quite enjoy although as Africans, these traditional beliefs are a reality in our communities.
It was interesting to see how the author connected some of the stories (Papa’s name and Monkeys), however, the book would have been a more enjoyable read if the author provided a glossary for all the Afrikaans words used in the book. This made it difficult for me to really connect with some of the stories. Also some of the titles did not capture the essence of the story told and this kept me guessing what the author was trying relay through these titles.
This book was a good read but will not make it on my top list. I understand that the stories are a reflection of current realities but I would have loved it if a ‘happy story’ was thrown into the sea of sad stories. In life there will always be challenges but there are also happy moments too. I wish some of those happy moments were captured here.
I recommend this book mostly to South Africans and people interested in their history and current challenges.
Rating: 3 Stars
Published: May 1st, 2019 by Jacana Media
Genre: Short Story Collection
Purchase @ www.amazon.com/ifyoukeepdigging
The Author: Keletso Mopai is a South African storyteller whose work has been published in various highly regarded journals and listed for short story prizes. She majored in geology and chemistry, and has a Bachelor of Science honours degree in geology. ‘If You Keep Digging’ is her debut book.
Guest Contributor: Aisha Musa
Aisha is a devout Nigerian Muslim, Geoscientist and mother. She loves reading both fiction and non-fiction books in her spare time, going on field expeditions and interacting with like – minds. She is an emerging voice for women’s development and empowerment especially in third world countries and strives to be a dependable role model to career women and mothers alike. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria with her family.