Synopses & Reviews
If the Mandelas were the generals in the fight for black liberation, the Mashininis were the foot soldiers. Theirs is a story of exile, imprisonment, torture, and loss, but also of dignity, courage, and strength in the face of appalling adversity. Originally published in Great Britain to critical acclaim, A Burning Hunger: One Family's Struggle Against Apartheid
tells a deeply moving human story and is one of the seminal books about the struggle against apartheid.
This family, Joseph and Nomkhitha Mashinini and their thirteen children, became immersed in almost every facet of the liberation struggleand#151;from guerrilla warfare to urban insurrection. Although Joseph and Nomkhitha were peaceful citizens who had never been involved in politics, five of their sons became leaders in the antiapartheid movement. When the students of Soweto rose up in 1976 to protest a new rule making Afrikaans the language of instruction, they were led by charismatic young Tsietsi Mashinini. Scores of students were shot down and hundreds were injured. Tsietsi's actions on that day set in motion a chain of events that would forever change South Africa, define his family, and transform their lives.
A Burning Hunger shows the human catastrophe that plagued generations of black Africans in the powerful story of one religious and law-abiding Soweto family. Basing her narrative on extensive research and interviews, Lynda Schuster richly portrays this remarkable family and in so doing reveals black South Africa during a time of momentous change.
Review by Robert Press from the May 23, 2006 edition of CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR--http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0523/p14s01-bogn.html Swept up by history The Mashinini brothers of South Africa became heroes when one of them dared to organize a march. By Robert M. Press He liked to play softball and tennis, he loved to dance, and he was chairman of his school debating team. But on June 16, 1976, young Tsietsi Mashinini became a political activist, leading high school students on a protest that would change his country and sweep his family into the human rights struggle against South Africa's white minority and the iron grip with which they ruled the vast black majority. A Burning Hunger is an example of a genre one writer has labeled the "struggle biography" - the true story of someone who overcomes. But in this case, what journalist Lynda Schuster has given us is really a five-way biography. It tells the true story of the five brothers in the Mashinini family, all of whom emerged as political heroes during South Africa's struggles against apartheid in the 1970s and '80s. Although Tsietsi was the one who achieved fame during the horrific events of June 16 - when South African police shot at dozens of children - his siblings Rocks, Mpho, Dee, and Tsehpiso all became activists who ultimately followed their Tsietsi into hiding, prison, and exile. The brothers were living in South Africa at a pivotal moment. Most of the rest of the sub-Saharan African continent had been independent since the late 1950s or early 1960s, ruled by a black majority, though the new rulers often turned out to be autocratic. But in South Africa, in 1960, police had massacred 69 Africans, most of them shot in the back, at a demonstration in Sharpeville against laws requiring blacks to have a pass to move about the country. In 1964, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for trying to bring democracy to his country; he would not be released until 1990 but then went on to be elected president in 1994 with blacks finally free to vote. South Africa was not the first place to see youth who step to the forefront in a national test of wills in the name of freedom. Student protesters have been killed in Ethiopia, Mali, Kenya, Chile, and many other countries including the United States. (In Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, for example, with most adult protesters under arrest, hundreds of youths braved arrest and some faced skin-peeling fire hoses and police attack dogs in a civil rights protest that caught the country's attention.) But now it was young Tsietsi's turn. He led a swelling tide of students on a peaceful protest march through the streets of the black South African township of Soweto. Police that day killed 25 and wounded 200 others. When it was over, "large swaths of Soweto lay in ruins. South Africa, and the Mashinini family, would never be the same," Schuster tells us. Tsietsi would flee the country; others in the family would join the rebellion, some with guns. Some would know capture, torture, exile. Schuster, a journalist who has written for this paper as well as The Wall Street Journal, bases her book on 70 hours of taped interviews telling the story of the Mashinini family and how their children were swept into the rough currents of history. This is not, as she wisely points out, the definitive book on the struggle against apartheid, that rigid system of keeping races separate, apart, to the maximum extent possible in South Africa under Afrikaner rule. This is a story of one family; but along the way one learns a good deal about South African history from the ground up. The advantage of a book like this is that it takes the reader beyond the well-known leaders of a cause - most notably, in this case, Nelson Mandela. Schuster reminds us that behind the world-known giants that lead resistance movements are ranks of little-known but equally brave activists - the "foot soldiers" for freedom. Key among their contributions is doing the legwork to organize turnouts for protests that signal to a regime that opposition is growing and that negotiations eventually must start. At one point Mpho, one of the Mashinini children harshly tortured by the white Afrikaner police for his activism, attends a public meeting in Soweto packed with about 200 people, including "students, pensioners, housewives." Six months earlier, such a meeting, Schuster estimates, would have been lucky to draw 30 people. Now the townships were "positively throbbing with activity" and protests were frequent and daring. The author provides the kind of vivid details that are the building blocks for broader explanations of what happened in the anti-apartheid movement in terms of social movement or international relations theories. This is a serious work, well written, well researched, and told with the kind of drama one would expect in a novel. With gripping detail, Schuster offers us a front- row seat on one of Africa's most important - and ultimately successful - struggles for freedom. She reveals an unquenchable human spirit that eventually can overcome even daunting repression. Robert Press is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Southern Mississippi. He was the Monitor's bureau chief in Nairobi, Kenya, from 1987 to 1995. His book "Peaceful Resistance: Advancing Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms" which focuses on Kenya will be published this summer. A Burning Hunger: One Family's Struggle Against Apartheid By Lynda Schuster Ohio University Press 472 pp., $19.95 (paper)/$49.95 (hardcover)
and#147;A major contribution to the history of the struggle era, giving a human face to a family that was idolized by black South Africans and demonized in white South Africa.and#8221;
and#151; Business Day
and#147;A compelling story of a South African family that became deeply involved in this deadly, seemingly unending battle between black Africans and whitesand#133;. the accounts impressively combine to form one intensely felt narrative of life in apartheid South Africa.and#8221;
and#151; The Historian
and#147;A Burning Hunger
is a vital reminder of one of the most intense political struggles in living memory. It's fascinating, triumphant and ultimately very sad.and#8221;
and#151; Time Out
and#147;Of all the valuable books I have read, Schusterand#8217;s was the first to draw me so close that I could smell the burning tyres that barricaded Soweto streets that week; I could smell the thick smoke of burning shops and police vehiclesand#151;all coupled with a family's burning hunger for survival.and#8221;
and#147;This is modern history written for a broad readership, and not necessarily an African one.and#8221;
and#151; Sunday Independent
and#147;It is strange that no South African writer has thought of doing what Lynda Schuster, an American journalist, has done so well in this bookand#151;follow through the history of a black family in the context of the anti-apartheid struggle.and#8221;
and#151; The Sunday Times
and#147;The great strength of the book is its narrative lineand#133;. Shuster did almost one hundred interviews and one feels as if one is seeing exile through the eyes of Tsietsi, Rocks, and Dee, and the emerging South Africa via Mpho and Tshepisoand#133;. In this, she has given us a remarkable senseand#151;national, international, and personaland#151;of late apartheid era South Africa and its exiles.and#8221;
and#151; International Journal of African Historical Studies
and#147;A Burning Hunger
is the history of a South African family that suffered, resisted and finally triumphed over apartheid: a book that is as fascinating as the best novels.and#8221;
and#151; Mario Vargas Llosa
On June 16, 1976, the youth of Soweto rose up in protest against a new rule making Afrikaans the language of instruction in their schools. Tsietsi Mashinini, a charismatic high school student, led them in demonstrations that quickly turned into South Africas biggest rebellion. Tsietsis actions on that day set in motion a chain of events that changed his country irrevocably and forever defined his family. From that moment onward, the Mashinini name became the stuff of legend; many of Tsietsis twelve siblings and even his parents, law-abiding, church-going citizens, found themselves pulled inexorably into the fight against apartheid. Originally published in the United Kingdom to critical acclaim, A Burning Hunger tells the tale of this remarkable family. It is the story of black South Africa in microcosm, embracing just about every facet of the liberation struggle. Tsietsi and his brothers became leading players in everything from guerrilla warfare to urban insurrection.
This is an acclaimed account of a family of foot soldiers for black liberation in South Africa, whose lives were changed in the Soweto uprising. Published originally in the UK to wide reviews, this is its first publication in the U. S.
About the Author
Lynda Schuster worked as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor in Africa, Central and South America, and the Middle East. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Utne, and the Atlantic Monthly. She now lives in Gainesville, Florida.