Zebra Crossing by Meg Vandermerwe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was very happy to win a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. I would rate this novel about a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Meg Vandermerwe's "Zebra Crossing" is a powerful and absorbing novel about a teenage girl named Chipo who travels from Zimbabwe to South Africa in the hopes of finding a better life. Chipo is an albino, which marks her to many Africans as a ghost, an animal, or a person linked to witchcraft or the living dead. She faces hostility in her new home because of her unusual appearance, but also because of her status as an illegal immigrant in a country seized by xenophobia and waves of violence against migrants from other African nations. Against the backdrop of the 2010 World Cup that brings the attention of the globe to South Africa, Chipo and her brother become involved in a shady underworld scheme to make their fortunes.
I found this well-written book gripping, and devoured it in about a day and a half. There are so many intriguing themes here: home and belonging, what it means to be labeled as the "Other," the power of superstition, and unrequited love, for starters. I was interested to learn about the difficult immigrant experience for black Africans in South Africa, an issue I haven't read about before. The character of the young albino girl Chipo was fascinating and memorable .... and this brings me to my main criticism of the book. Chipo, I felt, deserved more agency, and more of a chance to find strength within herself and create the life she deserved. As a reader, I'll admit, I very much wanted a different fate for Chipo. There cannot always be a happy ending, in life or in fiction, I suppose ... but a glimmer of hope can be a beautiful thing.