Trigger Warning: Child Abuse and Rape
Two months. That’s how long it took me to read Khwezi by Redi Tlhabi. It’s been the most heart-wrenching, painful book I’ve read for as long as I can remember. And it exhausted me. Whenever I picked it up and started reading the pages, I would think to myself, “Why am I even continuing reading? What am I trying to prove to myself?” I still cannot answer either question.
While I love reading controversial, biographical or political books, an interest from young, (I even studied politics in university), it’s not something I like discussing. I don’t even debate it with those closest to me, and here was a book that contained all three elements. It’s the kind of topic that would ruin families and friendships. In fact, after studying, I lost interest in politics for years because I became so disillusioned by how quickly and easily people can be swayed to be their worst selves by politicians playing on one’s fears or hopes. It divides, whether based on race, gender, class; it feeds into an “us” and “them” mentality.
What scares me the most is how many people see other human beings and cannot connect on a human level first. Reading about a thirty-something-year-old man raping a five-year-old just destroyed my soul. To try to understand that a child or even an adult is seen by another as an object, to be controlled and ruled over and treated as anything but human, is something unfathomable. And yet it plays out in so many different ways through patriarchy, racism, misogyny, even classism.
In this case, this book reminded me of all of this, mostly from a gender perspective.From the first page all the way to the end, it’s filled with story after story of an atrocity being committed and society twisting facts to suit their own agenda. An example that I can’t wrap my head around: Asking a female who was raped at the age of 12, whether she consented to the act with a 30-year-old male at the time. I was dumbfounded. And this happened in a courtroom. What I couldn’t understand was how someone could even think such a question was okay or normal. And this is just one example from the book. I had to get through dozens.
I grappled with many emotions while turning each page. Anger, confusion, judgment, sadness, heartache. I found myself at some sentences judging because the question of “how could someone be so trusting” popped up then moving to be angry and confused that females and males could come together to turn against a child or a victim, and yet neither gender could as easily come together to support one another (yes, a generalisation I know but it was the thought that popped into my head). What I struggled more with, is when those who face the negative aspects of these systems continue the cycle. Reading about how a woman beat a 13-year-old girl for being alone in a home with two grown males, just held so many questions for me. Why not question the two adults? Why not protect the child? How brainwashed was this adult female to think it was the child’s fault?
It will take me many years to share another potentially controversial, historical, political, or biographical book on my blog (this shortens my list from the beginning of the year by a big number). Short articles do not do these kinds of topics justice and the emotions that are required to be processed immense.
Maybe I’m just not that trusting yet; maybe I’m not interested in accepting how divided the world still is or maybe all I want is to continue trying to live in hope and faith that the good outweighs the bad. Always.
This book tested my resolve and faith in humans.
I’m not sure I was ready for it.