________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 6 . . . . October 14, 2016


When Morning Comes.

Arushi Raina.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 2016.
221 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $20.00 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-926890-14-2 (pbk.), 978-1-896580-69-2 (hc.).

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Crystal Sutherland.

***½ /4



Zanele came in to buy red lipstick.

"How's what's his name, Jack, doing?" I said, looking down at the cold black tube as it rolled across the counter to me.

"I don't know," she said, and let the words hand there, clarifying nothing.

I tallied up the lipstick purchase and put the tube in a bag. I hadn't expected Zanele to be so serious about the white boy. So serious that she wouldn't tell me.

"It was a question," I said. "That's all."

"I know. It doesn't matter."

But it did.

"It's finally happening," she said.


Zanele leaned forward across the counter as three of my father's friends entered the store. "Sixteen June. Keep an eye out."

"For what?"

Zanele flashed my father's friends a huge fake smile, then left.

Set in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1976, When Morning Comes recounts the planning and execution of an explosion at a power plant in protest of apartheid. The political climate and racial tension is told from the perspective of four very different individuals: Zanele, a black student and leader of a student uprising against apartheid; Jack, a rich white student whose parents employ Zanele's mother as a housekeeper and server; Thabo, a gang member and Zanele's friend; and Meena, the daughter of Indian immigrants who works at her father's grocery store. The lives and stories of these four individuals cross to show how racism and social status affects their paths, and how individuals, despite their differences, can come together to affect real change.

      High school student Zanele knows she needs to take action against the racist attitudes and actions that pervaded Johannesburg in 1976. She hates that her mother has little choice but to work as a maid and servant for a rich white family, and she is very much aware that her future will be no different if no action is taken. Zanele can make money to help her mother and her sister by singing at a shebeen, an illegal bar run by Thabo who is enamoured with her despite her sister being a better performer. The stark difference between the living conditions and rights between blacks and whites is more than Zanele can bear. Changes to the education system push Zanele and her classmates into action. The announcement that students will have to complete their final three years of education in Afrikaans is one more barrier the government has created that Zanele and her classmates will have to overcome.

      One night when Zanele is performing, three white boys, very drunk, stumble into the Shebeen. For Jack, it's love at first sight while Zanele is frustrated that the white kids feel they can come into the shebeen while she and her friends would be arrested if they tried to enter a bar frequented by white clientele. She doesn't know that her mother works for Jack's family until she offers to help her mother one day. She is surprised to see him, but she also feels she should have known all along and that the only reason he took an interest in her is because she's his housekeeper's daughter.

      As the group of people wanting to take action against racism grows and begins to take shape, Zanele is surprised to find an ally in Meena. Meena helps the group pass information to each other and has access to illegal pamphlets circulated by groups that have been banned by the government for taking action against the racist regime. Meena's father used to belong to these groups, but he was never questioned as he and his family were almost invisible being of East Indian descent in a setting where the focus was on how whites treated blacks. Though East Indian businesses are harassed for money by the police, as all businesses are, their race is rarely an issue. Zanele is sceptical at first, not trusting Meena to stay quiet about their activity, but eventually trusts her enough to share their plans and believes Meena when she says Jack is an ally. The bombing is carried out, and many lives are lost. The lasting impact is yet to be seen, but the foundation for change has been set largely in part by the bond between a black girl, a white boy, and an East Indian girl whose unlikely friendship is integral to the success of the power plant bombing.

      When Morning Comes begins with Zanele, Jack, and Meena thinking about the night of the bombing, then goes into the events leading up to that night. The time shift isn't clear, and, until readers realize they've gone back in time, it's a bit confusing. Readers may struggle through the first few short sections, but the shift in time soon becomes clear, and readers will be eager to fill in the gaps left by the introduction: who survives, whose relationships last, and who is committed to carrying out the bombing regardless of the consequences?

      Some Afrikaans is used throughout the books, with meanings provided in a glossary. If the book is being used in a class set in English classes, it would be useful for teachers to have the most common terms reproduced on a bookmark. Until students become familiar with the terms, their turning to the glossary while keeping track of who is talking could, along with the unclear time-shifting, become frustrating. If readers make it past the first 20 pages, however, they won't be able to put the book down. When Morning Comes starts out a bit disjointed, but it quickly turns into a fast-paced read with four key characters readers will love despite their flaws.

Highly Recommended.

A MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate, Crystal Sutherland is a librarian living in Halifax, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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