Synopses & Reviews
A brutally honest exposé, provides a sobering portrait of a country caught between a democratic future and a political meltdown. Recent works have focused primarily on Nelson Mandela's transcendent story. But Douglas Foster, a leading South Africa authority with early, unprecedented access to President Zuma and to the next generation in the Mandela family, traces the nation's entire post-apartheid arc, from its celebrated beginnings under "Madiba" to Thabo Mbeki's tumultuous rule to the ferocious battle between Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. Foster tells this story not only from the point of view of the emerging black elite but also, drawing on hundreds of rare interviews over a six-year period, from the perspectives of ordinary citizens, including an HIV-infected teenager living outside Johannesburg and a homeless orphan in Cape Town. This is the long-awaited, revisionist account of a country whose recent history has been not just neglected but largely ignored by the West.
"Drawn 'to investigate what happened in the aftermath of great social convulsions,' journalist Foster is 'hooked on the postliberation story of the Republic of South Africa.' In this thoroughly engrossing account based on his travels there between 2004 and 2012, Foster offers a richly detailed account, both personal and professional, of 'the only place on the globe where advanced capitalism, AIDS, and political freedom rushed through the door together.' Foster utilizes interviews with three 'insiders' from divergent political perspectives (Mandela's grandson, President Jacob Zuma's daughter, opposition leader Zille's son), three 'outsiders' (a homeless orphan in Cape Town, a teenager with HIV living outside Johannesburg, an 'unabashedly hopeful' boy from the northern-most province), and President Zuma himself. Besides an array of other political figures, he speaks with doctors, journalists, even Condoleezza Rice. Rendering places as vividly as a travel book, Foster tucks in enough South African history for the reader to understand the backstory of his speakers. However engrossing as Foster's account is, the thicket of political intrigue surrounding Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa 1999 2008, and Zuma, and assorted internal ANC conflicts and controversies, remains impenetrable. Agent: David Black, David Black Agency. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Fantastic at cultivating contacts... [Foster] draws insightful observations from the hundreds of people he interviewed and those he encountered in passing. He proved to be especially good at connecting with young people and drawing on their astute observations about the country they have inherited." Kirkus Reviews
"Fantastic at cultivating contacts… [Foster] draws insightful observations from the hundreds of people he interviewed and those he encountered in passing. He proved to be especially good at connecting with young people and drawing on their astute observations about the country they have inherited." Kirkus Reviews
"What a pleasant surprise to encounter a book that actually looks beyond the surface of South Africa's by now well-known story... Douglas Foster, former editor of , has gained a superb understanding of the complexities of South African society... Foster gives us a portrait of a vibrant nation, full of contrasts and contradictions, of wealth and poverty, of diversity and sophistication alongside ingrained attitudes and resistance... He is also fearless in putting his questions to the president, but given the nature of Zuma's evasions and excuses, it is no wonder that, at its conclusion, the book looks beyond the democratically elected leaders to the demos, the people of South Africa, and its essential spirit." Martin Rubin
"Mr. Foster is a dogged reporter, blessed with an uncanny ability to talk himself into places where journalists aren't normally welcome." Los Angeles Times
The most important historical and journalistic portrait to date of a nation whose destiny will determine the fate of a continent.
About the Author
Douglas Foster, an associate professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, is a contributor to The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times, and Smithsonian. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.