When Morning Comes by Arushi Raina is a YA historical novel set during the 1976 Soweto student uprising. A powerful and moving book with interesting and diverse characters, your young adult will love it!
As soon as I read When Morning Comes by Arushi Raina, I was fascinated by how this young writer had achieved something remarkble. She managed to capture the points of view of such a diverse set of people. The book is about a South African night club singer, Zanele, who is plotting against the apertheid government. A white South African boy named Jack is in love with Zanele. An Indian named Meena sympathizes with the students, even though Zanele’s friend Thabo heads a local gang and extorts money from Meena’s father, who owns a store.
Set in South Africa during the height of apartheid government’s power in 1976, the book’s central fictitious characters are somehow involved in the Soweto uprising, The book’s four leading characters come from different circumstances. Published by Duckbill in India, this book by Arushi Raina won the Children’s Africana Book Award in the US in 2018.
A historic student uprising
The Soweto uprising is an astonishing moment in history. It saw 20,000 township students protesting an education system that made it compulsory for them to use only Afrkiaan to learn their subjects.
Being a student uprising, young readers will find the book instantly relatable. After all, there are so many things in their lives that they don’t understand, want to fix or want to escape. In her book, Raina beautifully captures the angst, frustration and sense of loss that the students feel at being disadvantaged so blatantly by the Baas Laws. The complicated feelings they have about one another and their different ethnicities also makes for an interesting read.
Politics and more
Young adults and teenagers will love the book because of its fascinating characters, its powerful narrative and of course, for how it makes its politics so relatable to young people.
While politically aware teens will love the book, every reader will find something unique in the story. The characters are relateable in so many ways. Jack, for instance, is a sort of drifter and doesn’t have any opinion about his life or the goings on in Soweto. He then finds that he is forced into the circumstances that surround the protests. It is always interesting to have an indifferent narrator to leaven the tone of the writing.
The violence and the racial tensions depicted in the book will impact anyone who is reading it. Young adults are perfect for meaningful historical novels like this that make history come alive with fiction and superb characterization. As a teenager, I read a book named The Eighteenth Parallel by Ashokamithran. It really spoke to me because of its political angst. Maybe young adults are rebellious in some sense (I certainly was!) and want to set the world right in some way.
I also loved how the book shifts from one person’s point of view to another’s perspective. While the novel is about a political moment in history, we cannot categorize the way we see ourselves and view others. Our ethnicities don’t define our identities. Our interactions with one another do. Young adults are constantly searching for an identity. This book is a wonderful way to get them to understand points of view. In a politically divided world, it is important to try and understand issues through the people that drive them.
Young readers are very astute and smart. I am sure that they will be able to draw parallels between the book and contemporary events in the world.
How often do we have books by Indian writers that boast of such superb storylines and material? Do get your teens and YAs to read this marvelous book by Arushi Raina! It is stark, purposeful, passionate, and a beautiful narrative.