ROSA'S DISTRICT 6 by Rozena Maart (TSAR), 232 pages, $18.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
These stories take you so deep into a location that you can taste and smell the foods and hear the cadences of its people. The place is District 6, a section of Cape Town made up of an unusual melting pot of immigrants and ex-slaves.
The narratives unfold during the vicious apartheid regime, but these are tales not about political conflict but about people getting on with life, going to markets, making love.
The little girl Rosa is the glue. She carries a notebook and pen around her neck so she can jot down her thoughts. Teachers think she's trouble because she sees too much. The book begins with a powerful piece told by Rosa in her own dialect; too bad there isn't more of that voice in the pages that follow.
In The Green Chair, Rosa helps two girls take their mother Magda's favourite old chair away to be reupholstered, but Magda loves the battered item just the way it is. In Money For Your Madness, she observes a mother's frustration with her daughter's mental illness. And there are two terrific and graphic stories that give insight into gay life in South Africa.
The Bracelet, for example, is about a husband coming out, but it's the context that counts. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in the part of District 6 inhabited by the lightest-skinned people who get better employment. Carolyn, who revels in her privilege, can't believe that her world is crashing down around her.