Power Lines: Two Years on South Africa's Borders

Power Lines: Two Years on South Africa's Borders

by Jason Carter
     
 

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"Power lines pass over the town of Lochiel, South Africa. When Jason Carter arrived, the power lines of First-World South Africa ran directly through the village in the former black homeland...but the homes had no electricity." In the aftermath of apartheid, few whites live as Peace Corps volunteer Jason Carter did - with a black family in a Third-World community. As… See more details below

Overview

"Power lines pass over the town of Lochiel, South Africa. When Jason Carter arrived, the power lines of First-World South Africa ran directly through the village in the former black homeland...but the homes had no electricity." In the aftermath of apartheid, few whites live as Peace Corps volunteer Jason Carter did - with a black family in a Third-World community. As he shows us, deprivation and illiteracy are formidable foes adding to the centuries-old legacy of oppression and mistrust that still casts its long shadow across a South African society struggling to redefine itself in the years following Nelson Mandela's presidency.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
In this illuminating and textured, if pedestrian account of life in the Peace Corps, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter (who has written the introduction) shows that he, too, might be headed for high places. After graduating from college, Carter spent two years in the late 1990s volunteering in a former black homeland, as South Africa tried to build itself anew in the aftermath of apartheid. Assigned to the tiny, and poor, community of Lochiel, Carter takes the political and turns it into the personal as he writes candidly of his attempts to help create a new curriculum; he reflects on his efforts to raise teachers' self-esteem without trampling on their turf. Carter depicts life with humor and honesty and considers the limits of his stint, the way Western culture has become part of South Africans' lives and his guilt at enjoying its trappings as he travels around the country. Now a law student at the University of Georgia, Carter provides a lens on contemporary South African life that demonstrates his optimism for the future, tempered by his acknowledgment of continuing racial tension. The result will make readers sympathize with the author and empathize with the situations he describes without being maudlin. 16 pages of color photos not seen by PW. (June) Forecast: The famous name is the angle booksellers will play up here, especially in a time when Africa's conflicts have taken a back seat to other countries' troubles. If Carter shakes a lot of hands on his four-city author tour, he could broaden his audience. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Former president Jimmy Carter's grandson makes a well-meaning entry in a long-dormant genre, the Peace Corps memoir. Thirteen-year-old Jason Carter accompanied his grandfather on a humanitarian mission to Africa in 1988 and returned with vivid, contradictory images: one of idyllic landscapes, another of children his own age pressed into military service. One of them asked whether he knew Michael Jordan: "I was shocked," Carter writes. "Perhaps, I thought, the gap between Africa and America is not so huge as I guessed." Fast-forward a decade, and Carter, now a young Peace Corps volunteer assigned to the northern townships of South Africa, discovers that gap to be huge indeed, at least for blacks, even under Nelson Mandela's government. On the scene during a time of transition when that government was diligently seeking to remake itself to serve the hitherto disenfranchised majority, Carter offers a firsthand look at life in the townships, ranging from notes on matters of daily existence to larger commentaries on matters of freedom and justice. His narrative is in the main informative, though peppered with gee-whiz enthusiasms ("Hitchhiking is one of the most liberating experiences I can imagine") and liberal posturing ("Now that we were able to point fingers at other oppressors, we were ready to hold high the banner of justice"). Carter is at his best when he lets others do the talking, as the time a weary government minister tells him that the most surprising thing he learned about taking power was that "we just had no idea how much we had to do," or when a passer-by in a local shop comments on his globalizing mission: "Yours is the best way to colonize a people. Americans at least giveyou something in return." A book particularly suited for those contemplating a hitch in the Peace Corps themselves.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780792241010
Publisher:
National Geographic Society
Publication date:
05/06/2003
Series:
Adventure Press Series
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.97(w) x 8.95(h) x 0.80(d)

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