Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chuaro Grace Zuzo's The Bully Cycle

Zuzo's The Bully Cycle explains the cycle of abuse that exists within every social structure, but is especially pronounced in the South African culture. Chuaro has grown up in a loving home, believing that all couples and families are happy and treat each other well. When she goes to a friend's home after school, she is shocked to see her friend's father beat her mother and yell at her for not having her food ready.

Inquisitive and disturbed, Chuaro approaches her own mother about the incident and learns about the cycle of abuse that exists in many homes in South Africa. The father is forced to call his white employer "Baas" all day and is commonly referred to as "boy," at odds with the culture of the blacks, who have gone through extensive coming of age rituals to become men and view the white men as boys, having not earned their manhood. They must even refer to white children as "Klein Baas" or "Little Boss," as an expression of respect.

The man who has been emasculated and abused all day at works, comes home and abuses his wife in order to make himself feel like a powerful man. From there, the parents yell at and abuse their children, in hopes that it will motivate them to become educated and not turn out like them. An intuitive child, Chuaro infers that the cycle goes further, having witnessed her friend abuse her pets, the dog , in turn, abuses the cat, who abuses the mouse, who frightens the family. Every part of the social structure takes out their aggressions on another part of it, fueling "The Bully Cycle."

This is an important book for children to read, teaching them that for every mean word or action, the cycle does not stop there, but continues perpetually, and that for every kind action, even as simple as a smile, there is also a chain reaction. The Bully Cycle teaches children the consequences of their actions and attitudes and helps them understand the behavior and meanness of others.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chuaro Grace Zuzo's Why Pastor's Kid Refused to Go to Church

Grace Zuzo illuminates the confusion that arises in children when school teachings and church teachings differ. In Why the Pastor's Kid Refused to Go to Church, a young girl whose father is a pastor is taught in school that Saturday is the last day of the week, while she goes to church on Sunday. She begins to keep the Sabbath holy, as she is taught, on Saturday, the true last day of the week and staying home on Sunday, cooking and doing housework for her parents who are at church.

The book also illuminates the cultural differences and tensions of South Africa as she seeks for a church to attend on Saturdays, but cannot attend Jewish services, as black people are were not allowed to worship with white people under the laws of apartheid and there were no Jewish services for blacks. After many years of not attending church, believing that she should keep the true Sabbath holy, she finally discovers that in the tribal land of Transkei, Saturday is celebrated and honored as the Sabbath. She regrets keeping her motivations for not attending church secret, as she would have long ago discovered the disparities in the tribal observance of religion and the city practice. This book is a great way to explain the differences in church teachings and school teachings to children and helping them to find ways of reconciling two different modes of thinking, both of which they are taught to be correct. Finding a way to reconcile the teachings of schoolteachers and the teachings of pastors, both of whom children are taught to respect, becomes an increasingly important lesson in today's society, as diverging teachings are presented in both.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chuaro Grace Zuzo's Different is Not Stupid or Ugly: A South African Story

Having lived in South Africa, I found this book extremely interesting and gave me a deeper understanding of the tribal cultures. It is a book that is educational even to adults, but written on a level that children can understand and enjoy. The story is written in a way that makes you forget that you are learning, presented through the eyes of a fascinated girl who is trying to understanding the rich and varied cultures of her country.

South Africa has a rich cultural history and is the true melting pot of the world. Outside of the large Indian population and European cultures (Dutch, English, Portuguese, Italian, and Greek), there still remains a large tribal population and as diversified of African culture as there is European culture; of South African Africans cultures alone (excluding the many other African immigrants) there are the Zulu, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Tswana, Venda, and Shangaan.

The young girl, Chuaro, prides herself on her urbanity, and her ability to combine different languages and cultural influences, moving from Afrikaans areas to townships where Tswana, Sotho, Pedi, Tsonga, Venda, Ndebele, Zulu, and Xhosa were spoken. Chuaro, like many young girls of Johannesburg, saw their urbanized education and dress and ability to speak multiple languages as superior, viewing the tribal people of the homelands as less intelligent.

Chuaro becomes curious about the cultures of South Africa when she travels from Johannesburg to Transkei, a former Bantustan of the Republic of South Africa, a homeland set aside for Xhosa-speaking people during apartheid. When she first asks why the Xhosa women do not wear bras or blouses, she is summarily tongue-lashed by a girl who takes offense to her city mentality towards the traditional style of life, surprised by the intelligence of someone she assumed was backwards. She is breathless and stunned when she sees the traditional outfits of different cultures, learning to appreciate their beauty rather than deriding them as ugly.

As she asks questions and seeks women of the different tribes to explain their culture to her, she learns about coming of age for girls in South African cultures, what it means to be a woman in each culture, the false values that she attributes to material possessions as a city girl, and that different is not stupid. While the story is written in such a way for children to understand and enjoy with beautiful colorful pictures of the traditional garments of different tribal backgrounds, it is a book that is educational and meaningful to adults, imparting important lessons and is a startling educational and intelligent children's book. While it could take a lifetime to learn about all of these cultures and to come to appreciate the lessons imparted, Zuzo manages to synthesize it into 33 pages.