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Read Around the World: South Africa

In November we visited South Africa and my book choice was an emotional one laugh out loud funny and at the same time the ending left me ugly crying….

Before we get down to the books here are some fun facts about South Africa from this website:

  • Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains on the planet.
  • South Africa is the only country in the world where right-hand drive cars are produced by Mercedes Benz.
  • The Bloukrans Bridge is the highest bridge for bungee jumping in the world. Not something I will ever do!
  •  The variety of flower species found on Table Mountain number more than those found in the entire United Kingdom.
  • South Africa’s lion, wildebeest, cheetah and springbok, are four of the seven fastest mammals on earth.
  • Boulders Beach, Cape Town, is where you can swim with colonies of Jackass penguins. This is something I would do!
  • With more than 6 million trees in Johannesburg, it is believed to be the site of the largest man-made forest on earth.
  • The biggest and oldest one-day marathon in the world, the Comrades Marathon, is run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, in Kwazulu Natal.
  • Although the Blyde River Canyon is only rated third largest in the world, it is believed to be the biggest “green” one on earth.
  • Rooibos/Redbush tea is naturally caffeine-free and is only found in the Cederberg, Western Cape. I have tried this I found it a bit too bitter (and I love green tea)
  • Two-thirds of Africa’s electricity is generated in South Africa.
  • Most of the world’s macadamia nuts come from South Africa.
  • South Africa is three times bigger than Texas, and five times bigger than Japan.
  • The world’s largest bird, the ostrich, is found here.
  • The African elephant is the largest land mammal in the world. The African bush elephants can weigh up to 11 tons and live up to 70 years!
  • South Africa is home to the tallest animal in the world, the giraffe.
  • The Least Dwarf Shrew, the smallest mammal in the world, lives in South Africa.
  • The world’s largest reptile, the Leatherback Turtle, is found in South African waters.
  • South Africa is home to the largest and the slowest antelope in the world, the Eland.
  • The whale shark is found in the ocean waters of South Africa.
  • South Africa is home to the world’s heaviest flying bird, the Khori Bustard.
  • About 1/5 of the world’s gold comes from mines in South Africa. That’s a lot of gold.
  • About 900 different types of birds are in South Africa, which is about 10% of the total bird species on earth.
  • The kingdom of Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa.
  • South African inventions include the Kreepy Krauly automatic pool cleaner, the CAT Scan, Q20 lubricant, Pratley’s Putty, and the Smartlock Safety Syringe, among others.
  • No other country in the world abandoned its nuclear arms program voluntarily like South Africa did. Much Kudos
  • The oldest human remains, more than 160,000 years old, were discovered in South Africa.
  • South Africa is the only country in the world to have played host to the rugby, soccer, and cricket World Cups.
  • With 11 official languages, South Africa has the most in the world. That’s a lot of languages
  • Two Nobel prize winners, namely Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto. That is a street with some weighty history.
  • Some of the oldest and most diverse dinosaur fossils were discovered here.
  • South Africa is the second largest producer of fruit on the planet.
  • It is the first country in the world to succeed in turning coal into oil.
  • Professor Chris Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant.
  • Literature — South Africa has produced some world famous authors, including among many others, Alan Paton, Breyten Bretenbach, Olive Schreiner, Nadine Gordimer, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Andre Brink. I did not know about Tolkien, I loved A Dry White Season by Andre Brink and Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton the others (apart from Tolkien) I haven’t read and I feel the need to remedy this. 

For my visit to South Africa I chose to read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. This book has been getting a lot of love lately and I can see why. I had never heard of Trevor Noah before but having read this book I can say he is a gifted storyteller.

Trevor is the son of a Black Xhosa woman and a white Swiss/German man as their mixed race relationship was illegal in South Africa at the time Trevor was literally “born a crime”

Trevor had a tough childhood growing up mixed race and not really belonging anywhere however he never asks the reader for sympathy instead he is matter of fact in his story telling and it is this that makes the story so hard hitting. Trevor admits he was a trouble maker he makes no excuses for himself it’s just how he was and while he may have been giving her constant sleepless nights his love for his mother shines through with every mention of her. In fact I am a little in love and a little in awe of her.

I love the way Trevor talks about colour and language and how they affect how others perceive you. I am impressed with his ability to embrace and learn several languages which aided him to relate to those who often viewed him as “other”

“I became a chameleon. My color didn’t change, but I could change your perspective of my color. If you spoke to me in Zulu, I replied to you in Zulu. If you spoke to me in Tswana, I replied to you in Tswana. Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.”

I loved his comments about different kinds of racism: “British racism said, “if the monkey can walk like a man and talk like a man, then perhaps he is a man.” Afrikaner racism said “why give a book to a monkey.”

The incident of the cat on the football pitch was interesting in terms of consequences and perceptions: “It was front page news all over the country. White people lost their shit. Oh my word, it was insane. The security guard was arrested and put on trial and found guilty of animal abuse. He had to pay some enormous fine to avoid spending several months in jail. What was ironic to me was that white people had spent years seeing video of black people being beaten to death by other white people, but this one video of a black man kicking a cat , that’s what sent them over the edge. Black people were just confused. They didn’t see any problem with what the man did. They were like “Obviously the cat was a witch. How else would a cat know how to get onto a soccer pitch? Somebody sent it to jinx one of the teams. That man had to kill the cat. He was protecting the players.”

And finally I loved his fathers views on racism in South Africa: “He just never understood how people could be racist in South Africa. “Africa is full of black people,” he would say, “so why would you come all the way to Africa if you hate black people? If you hate black people so much, why did you move into their house?” To him it was insane.”

You may have guessed by now that I loved this book, I read it in one day, it made me laugh, it made me cry and it taught me something about a place and time I didn’t know about. What more can you ask for from a book? Definite 5 stars and I will be recommending this to everyone.

Other readers have visited South Africa via these books:

Simona on Litsy visited via Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer which she rated as a Pick.

RachelO on Litsy is visiting via Journey to Jo’Burg by Beverley Naidoo.

Did you join us on this trip? Tell us what you read and what you thought?

Next up for December we will be visiting Togo. Will you be joining us and what will you be reading?



7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gail #

    I read Ancient Voices by van Heerden which I thought was quite good. It largely focused on a Afrikaner family which had both a multiracial branch and a pure Dutch bloodlines branch. I loved Noah Trevor’s book when I read it last spring, such a unique combination of insights and humor. For Togo I am going to read Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja. Embarrassingly, I did not even know where Togo was until I had to find an author from there.

    Liked by 2 people

    November 16, 2019
    • Book Worm #

      You are doing better than me as you have found a book already.


      November 16, 2019
  2. I participated in a read-along on Born a Crime 5 years ago, and really enjoyed it a lot:
    I really liked the theme of language/identity

    Liked by 1 person

    November 16, 2019
  3. I live in RSA, so my views are very subjective. I also enjoyed Trevor Noah’s book & glad it was such a hit with you. Brink & Gordimer don’t to it for me.


    November 17, 2019
  4. De Wet Ferreira #

    I live in KZN, but was born in the EC.. I love South Africa, and know that we have some really talented authors!

    I’m an amateur writer myself, and have started a fictional short story blog called Mzansi Shorts. Please take a read and let me know what you think? 🙏😊


    December 16, 2019
  5. Brilliant! I did’t know that bit about being the 2nd largest producer of fruit. And that bit about coal to oil will I will always find super impressive. I also enjoyed Trevor’s book. The last time I’d laughed that hard from a book was actually by another SA writer, John Van de Ruit’s Spud series. More for teens and YA but its hella funny too.


    February 19, 2020
  6. Rodger Clifton Keiseb S.A National Tourist Guide #

    Awesome! I shall share it on my LinkedIn page.


    June 11, 2021

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